The Government's policy for the approval and monitoring of SES numbers provides each agency with an SES cohort within which it is required to operate. The size of each agency’s SES cohort is based on positions (not people) and forms part of its average staffing level (ASL) estimate.
The APS Commissioner supports the Government to monitor and manage the size of the SES cohort.
Questions may be directed to SESCohort@apsc.gov.au.
Changes to an agency’s SES cohort
The approved size of an agency’s SES cohort will change over time if:
- an additional SES position is approved by Government
- a position is transferred between agencies via a Machinery of Government (MoG) change
- a position is transferred between agencies in the same portfolio, by agreement between the relevant agency heads
- a secondment changes reporting arrangements, by agreement between the relevant agencies
- a temporary approval ceases
- an agency evaluates its business needs and determines it appropriate to reduce the approved size of its SES cohort.
These changes should be reported to the Commission at the next bi-annual reporting period.
Requesting an increase
If an agency wishes to increase the size of its SES cohort, the Commission can provide advice on the most appropriate option and process for the individual agency. Please make contact as early as possible via firstname.lastname@example.org.
An agency can seek approval to increase the size of its SES cohort in one of two ways:
decision of Government through the Budget process
Where an agency needs to increase its SES cohort and requires additional funding or ASL to do so, it can seek additional SES positions via a New Policy Proposal or a Cabinet submission.
approval from the Minister for the Public Service
Where an agency needs to increase its SES cohort and has sufficient funding and ASL, it can seek approval from the Minister for the Public Service, through the Australian Public Service Commissioner.
To seek approval from the Minister, an agency head should write to the APS Commissioner outlining:
- the position title, classification level and duration (if temporary)
- why the position is required and how it will support the Government's priorities
- confirmation the agency has sufficient ASL and funding for the duration of the position
- confirmation of support from the relevant Minister and portfolio Secretary
- confirmation the position is appropriately classified, taking into consideration the SES work level standards – for further information see SES evaluation methodology guidelines and workbook
- the span of supervision for each SES position within the agency’s organisational structure, and how this aligns with benchmarks in updated guidance on Optimal Management Structures. Agencies must provide this information for all SES positions, both existing and proposed.
- context on any other SES positions approved since the last reporting period (either via the Budget process or through approval from the Minister).
The Commission can provide early advice and guidance on developing a request to the Minister, including how best to provide the information above. When a request is received, the APS Commission briefs the Minister, who will consider the agency’s request.
Each agency is required to report to the Commission on its SES cohort twice a year, as at 30 June and 31 December.
Reporting asks the agency about any changes to the approved size of its SES cohort since the last reporting period and how that aligns to the actual number of SES positions active in the agency. Reporting is based on SES positions (not people) and covers SES officers employed under the Public Service Act 1999. Numbers are recorded as Full Time Equivalent.
In reporting changes to the approved size of its SES cohort, the agency should include details of any increases or decreases to approved positions, including:
- whether they are permanent or temporary (including start and end dates)
- the reason for the change (e.g. awarded through Budget process or approval from the Minister, Machinery of Government change, ceased temporary positions, secondments or transfers where the agency has agreed to report the position)
- the approximate date and any relevant reference numbers for approvals.
In reporting the actual size of its SES cohort, the agency should include:
- positions active in the agency structure - whether filled by a substantive or acting employee, ongoing or non-ongoing. The duration of an acting arrangement does not need to be included for reporting purposes.
- SES secondees/transfers - if your agency has agreed to report the position as part of your SES Cohort (secondees/transfers can be reported by either the losing or gaining agency, depending on the agreed approach).
It is important for each agency to maintain accurate records throughout the year including tracking approvals, transfers and any other changes to SES cohort size.
SES movements via MoG changes
When SES employees and/or positions are moved via a MoG change, it is important the number of transferred SES positions is accurately recorded and agreed by both agencies. Agencies must note whether the positions transferred are temporary or permanent. SES MoG movements will need to be reported to the Commission as part of the bi-annual reporting process.
HR practitioners seeking more information on SES cohort arrangements can contact the Commission via email@example.com.