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Changing jobs in the APS

This page is designed for APS employees who are looking for information on moving to another job, generally within the APS.

More detailed information for managers and HR professionals on recruitment and mobility is at Recruitment and movement in the APS.

Finding a new job in the APS

Vacancies for ongoing jobs or temporary jobs longer than 18 months are advertised online at APSjobs. For more information see Applying for jobs in the APS.

Jobs can also be advertised on individual agency websites and jobseeker sites.

Recruitment and selection processes

Agencies use a variety of ways to assess candidates for a job. Each advertised vacancy will include details of the particular selection process that will apply.


An APS employee can be promoted to a higher classification on an ongoing basis following a competitive selection process based on merit, as described in the APS Employment Principles at section 10A of the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act).

Essentially, a decision is based on merit if all eligible members of the community are given a reasonable opportunity to apply and candidates are assessed through a competitive selection process against the requirements of the job.

Where the promotion is not subject to review1

  • The date of effect of the promotion is a date agreed by the relevant parties or otherwise four weeks after the decision is notified in the Public Service Gazette (the Gazette). This applies regardless of whether the promotion is within the same agency or to another agency.
  • Where the move is to another agency, the losing agency cannot prevent the promotion from taking effect.
  • A date of effect agreed by the employee and the relevant agencies must be after the date the decision is notified in the Gazette.

Where the promotion may be subject to review

  • An application to have a promotion decision reviewed needs to be made within the application period. This is generally a period of two weeks following the notification of the promotion in the Gazette. However, the Merit Protection Commissioner can approve a longer application period.
  • Where no application for review is lodged, the date of effect of the promotion is two weeks after the application period has ended or a date agreed by the employee and the relevant agencies that is not earlier than the end of the application period.
  • Where an application for review is lodged, then a number of factors determine the date of effect. These are described in subsection 36(3)of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Direction 2016 (the Directions). Most commonly, the promotion takes effect four weeks after the gaining agency head is notified of the decision or on a date agreed to by the employee and the relevant agencies.
  • Different provisions apply where an employee who is promoted to another agency is subject to a Code of Conduct investigation. See section 38 of the Directions.

Changing duties within an agency

Same classification

An employee can be re-assigned to a different set of duties at his or her existing classification within an agency. This may be the result of a voluntary transfer at level or may be a reassignment of duties by the agency head, taking account of operational requirements in the agency. There is no requirement to advertise a vacancy in these circumstances.

Lower classification

An employee can agree to be assigned duties at a lower classification for a temporary or ongoing period.

An employee cannot be assigned duties at a lower classification without their consent, other than in exceptional circumstances. These circumstances are described in subsection 23(4) of the PS Act.

Where the reduction in classification is for an ongoing period, any subsequent move by an employee to a higher classification is a promotion and must be the result of a process based on merit.

Higher duties

An employee can be assigned duties at a higher classification for a temporary period, subject to individual agency arrangements. This is not a promotion, as a promotion applies to an ongoing period.

Changing location

An employee can be required by an agency head to perform their duties at another location, subject to individual agency arrangements.

Moves between agencies

Voluntary transfers between agencies at the same classification level

An APS employee can agree to move from one APS agency to another at his or her existing classification level.

Such a move can follow a competitive selection process. However, because a transfer at level is not an engagement or promotion, it may also take place without a full merit process subject to individual agency arrangements.

An agency head must still be satisfied that the decision to transfer the employee is based on an assessment of the employee's work related qualities and the qualities required for the job.

Date of effect of voluntary moves

A voluntary move between agencies takes effect as follows:

  • the voluntary, permanent move of an ongoing employee takes effect four weeks from the date the employee informs the losing agency head in writing, or another date agreed between the employee and the two agencies
  • the voluntary, temporary move of an ongoing employee requires the written agreement of the losing and gaining agencies.
    • The period of the transfer can only be varied with the agreement of the employee and the two agencies.
    • At the end of the temporary transfer, the employee will normally return to their original agency.
    • If the losing agency does not agree to the transfer, then the gaining agency can take the employee on an ongoing basis. In this case, there would be no right of return to the losing agency.

Generally, a non-ongoing employee who moves to another agency is engaged by the second agency under a new employment arrangement.

Compulsory transfers between agencies

The Australian Public Service Commissioner can compulsorily move an APS employee from one agency to another:

  • where an employee is excess to requirements–under section 27 of the PS Act
  • following a change to administrative arrangements–under section 72 of the PS Act. More information is at Machinery of Government changes.

Moving in and out of the APS

Initiatives to encourage mobility

APS employees may be offered an opportunity to gain experience and build capability through a temporary move to another APS agency or to another organisation—including a non-APS agency; statutory authority; state, territory or local government; the not–for–profit sector or a private company.

Movements can also be from another organisation into the APS, and be unilateral or involve an employee exchange.

Typically, arrangements are put in place through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by all parties. The agreement sets out time frames and details responsibility for every day operational matters such as supervision, leave approvals, performance assessment and work health and safety.


The temporary movement of APS employees out of the APS and non-APS employees into the APS is sometimes characterised as a secondment. The home employer remains responsible for the payment of salaries and other terms and conditions of employment, with some exceptions—for example, equipment or travel costs.

The requirement for an APS employee to comply with the APS Values and Code of Conduct would continue.

Outside employment

Other arrangements include where an employee applies for leave without pay from an APS agency to take up temporary employment with another employer. In this case an employee will be subject to the home agency's relevant policies, including those on outside employment and conflicts of interest. The employee may also be subject to the policies of the outside employer—for example—do they require permission to remain an APS employee?

An APS employee on leave without pay remains covered by those aspects of the APS Code of Conduct that apply 'at all times'–for example the provisions relating to upholding the APS Values and APS Employment Principles, and the integrity and good reputation of the employee's agency and the APS.

More information

For more information, see Advancing Professional Development through planned mobility

Senior Executive Service (SES) employees interested in completing a secondment can find more information at  Learning and Development opportunities for SES.

Information on secondment opportunities can be found at Talent Management


1 For more information on review rights see the Office of the Merit Protection Commissioner.

Last reviewed: 
11 February 2020