The legislative framework for the APS
The legislative framework of the APS consists of the following legislation, policies, directions and guidance materials:
The principal act governing the operation of the APS is the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act). The main objectives of the PS Act, outlined in Section 3, are to:
- establish an apolitical public service that is efficient and effective in serving the Government, the Parliament and the Australian public
- provide a legal framework for the effective and fair employment, management and leadership of APS employees
- define the powers, functions and responsibilities of Agency Heads, the Australian Public Service Commissioner (the Commissioner) and the Merit Protection Commissioner (MPC) and
- establish the rights and obligations of APS employees.
The PS Act is supported by subordinate legislation:
Public Service Regulations 2023 (the Regulations) provide further detail on the operation of the PS Act. The Regulations have provisions relating to the Code of Conduct; review rights; independent selection advisory committees; the functions of the Commissioner and the MPC; the employer powers of Agency Heads; non-ongoing (temporary) employment arrangements; and the use and disclosure of personal information.
Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2022 (the Directions) are developed by the Commissioner in accordance with subsections 11(1), 11A(1), 11A(2) and 15(6) of the PS Act. The Directions prescribe standards that Agency Heads and APS employees must uphold to meet their obligations under the PS Act. It provides details on the application of the APS Values and APS Employment Principles, and provisions relating to recruitment and selection; performance management; handling of suspected breaches of the Code of Conduct; and other employment matters.
Public Service Classification Rules 2000 (the Rules) are made in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the PS Act and prescribe approved classifications for the APS. The Rules require Agency Heads to allocate each APS employee an approved classification. The Rules, at section 9, also establish the requirement that the allocation of a classification to a group of duties must be based on work value as described by the APS Work Level Standards issued by the Commissioner.
Prime Minister's directions
Under section 21 of the PS Act, the Prime Minister of Australia may issue general directions in writing to Agency Heads in relation to the management and leadership of APS employees. There are currently two directions in force.
- Prime Minister’s direction under subsection 21(1) came into effect 24 December 2019, and directs Agency Heads to grant paid leave to APS employees who are members of recognised volunteer services and who have been deployed as part of an emergency response. Guidance for Agency Heads - Paid emergency response leave for APS employees provides further information.
Human resources (HR) practitioners seeking advice on this guidance can contact the Workplace Relations team via email@example.com.
- Prime Minister’s direction under subsection 21(1) – 2020 (No. 1) came into effect 26 March 2020, to support the movement of APS employees to meet the exceptional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The APS Surge Reserve webpage provides further information.
HR practitioners seeking advice on this guidance can contact the APS Surge Reserve team via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other employment legislation
While not exhaustive, HR practitioners should understand and apply the following employment legislation:
- Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976
- Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Regulations 2016
- Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1973
- Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Regulations 2017
- Fair Work Act 2009
- Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988
- Privacy Act 1988
- Work Health and Safety Act 2011
- Equal employment opportunity legislation
- Australian Public Service Enterprise Award 2015
HR practitioners seeking advice on the operation of maternity leave, long service leave and the APS Award can contact the Workplace Relations team via email@example.com.
Advice on the other listed legislation needs to be sought from the relevant body/agency.
HR practitioners seeking more information on the PS Act and subordinate legislation can contact the Employment Policy team via firstname.lastname@example.org or call the advice line on (02) 6202 3857.