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Circular 2015/2: Introduction of the Australian Public Service Enterprise Award 2015

  1. The purpose of this circular is to inform Australian Public Service agencies of the introduction of the new Australian Public Service Award 2015.
  2. The Australian Public Service Enterprise Award 2015 was made by the Fair Work Commission on 14 May 2015, and is now in effect.
  3. The new APS Award replaces the Australian Public Service Award 1998.
  4. The new APS Award will set a safety net of terms and conditions that are to apply to the Australian Public Service. The impact on new enterprise agreements currently being bargained is expected to be minimal.
  5. The Award is available online at: http://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/documents/awardmod/enterprise/EM201362-orderandaward-140515.pdf

Changes from the Australian Public Service Award 1998

  1. The new Award is more streamlined than the previous Award, but many of the terms and conditions of employment have not changed.
  2. Key changes include:
    1. The new Award does not cover employees in the Senior Executive Service classifications;
    2. Casual loading has increased in line with other modern awards from 15 per cent to 25 per cent;
    3. The accrual of personal/carer's leave has been aligned with the National Employment Standards and now accrues progressively;
    4. Annual leave loading has been rolled into base salary;
    5. The process for defining remote localities will change from specifying locations to a formula which measures 'remoteness' on a 'point in time' basis;
    6. Salary rates are expressed as both yearly and hourly rates; and
    7. Classifications now align to the Public Service Classification Rules 2000.

Relationship to agency enterprise agreements

  1. In the Australian Public Service most employees are covered by enterprise agreements bargained at the agency level. The Award is used as a safety net against which the Fair Work Commission undertakes a 'better off overall test'. This means that employees must be 'better off overall' under an enterprise agreement than they would be if their terms and conditions of employment were set by the relevant Award.
  2. An enterprise agreement is not required to mirror the terms of the Award or provide a greater benefit when each individual item is compared, but must provide a package of terms, conditions and remuneration that results in a better overall outcome than the Award.
  3. The Australian Public Service Commission's general assessment is that for most agencies, the new minimum safety net will have little or no effect on the assessment of agreements under the better off overall test.
  4. In the main, salary rates in enterprise agreements are well above the award rates. This provides reasonable latitude for agencies in bargaining to reduce certain award conditions in exchange for other benefits.
  5. However, each agency agreement differs in its relationship with conditions in the Award. Agencies should satisfy themselves when bargaining that the overall agreement package they are proposing will pass the better off overall test.
  6. When making an application to the Fair Work Commission for the approval of an enterprise agreement, employers must provide a statement indicating how employees will be better off overall in comparison to the Award. The Australian Public Service Commission will issue further guidance to agencies to assist with this task.

Senior Executive Service employees

  1. The new Australian Public Service Enterprise Award 2015 does not cover Senior Executive Service employees.
  2. While Senior Executive Service employees had been covered by the previous Australian Public Service Award 1998, this coverage was limited to a very small number of matters.
  3. Generally, removing the Senior Executive Service from Award coverage will have little impact on these employees.
  4. One difference will be access to unfair dismissal. Prior to the creation of the new Award, Senior Executive Service employees had access to the unfair dismissal provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 because they were Award covered. As SES employees are not covered by the new APS Award, this will no longer be the case.
  5. Senior Executive Service employees retain a number of other protections relating to dismissal from employment, including under the Public Service Act 1999, the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977, and the general law remedies which are available to employees in similar roles in private sector employment. They also retain access to general protections under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Non-APS agencies

  1. The new Australian Public Service Enterprise Award 2015 applies exclusively to non-Senior Executive Service employees employed under the Public Service Act 1999.
  2. The Australian Public Service Commission is continuing to work with other Commonwealth employers on modernising their safety net provisions.

Further information and advice

  1. For further information about the new Award and its application, please contact the Australian Public Service Commission at workplacerelations [at] apsc.gov.au.
  2. General information on Awards is available from the Fair Work Commission website at: https://www.fwc.gov.au/awards-and-agreements/awards/modern-awards.


Marco Spaccavento

A/g Group Manager, Workplace Relations

18 May 2015

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018