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Classification Framework

The classification framework provides agencies with an orderly and systematic way to organise work for the efficient achievement of agency outcomes.

The essential function of the classification framework is to group together jobs with similar features of work value, based on the level of complexity and depth of responsibility expected. It also assists with managing the workforce in that employees can be matched to clearly identified jobs.

APS classification principles

The classification framework is based on a set of principles that provide a common foundation for the consistent application of classification management across the Australian Public Service (APS):

1. Jobs are classified, not people.

Jobs are classified on the basis of the work to be performed rather than the particular qualities of the person performing it.

2. Jobs are classified based on work value.

The work value of a job is established by considering the type and nature of the work to be performed and assessed against the relevant work level standards.

3. A classification level is determined according to the highest level of function performed most regularly.

Comprehensive analysis of the job to be performed may identify a range of duties across different levels of work value. The classification level allocated is based on the level of the highest function most regularly performed.

4. Classification and remuneration are related, but assessed independently.

Remuneration does not drive or determine a classification level, only work value does. The remuneration applicable to each classification level is determined in an agency's enterprise agreement, including the flexibility to consider an alternative salary for an individual employee under an individual flexibility arrangement and in keeping with the bargaining framework for APS enterprise agreements.

Classification structure

The APS classification structure is designed to provide a flexible framework for a wide variety of APS jobs across a diverse range of agencies. The structure is based on a single spine of classification levels, underpinned by a suite of training classifications. This approach facilitates mobility within the APS and supports the concept of a unified APS. It also provides a structure that enables the merit-based promotion of APS employees to a higher classification level (refer to Part 2.1 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2013).

Approved classifications

The approved classification levels are

  • APS Levels 1-6
  • Executive Levels (EL) 1-2, and
  • Senior Executive Bands 1-3.

Training classifications are available as a means of skilling employees before being allocated an operational classification on completion of their training program. The approved training classifications are:

  • Apprentice APS
  • Cadet APS
  • Graduate APS, and
  • Trainee APS.

There is also a small number of occupational-specific classifications (for example, Medical Officers) and a limited number of approved agency-specific classifications relating to work that is only performed in one specific agency (for example, APS Meat Inspector, Examiner of Patents and Customs Level 1-5).

Legislative framework

The Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act) is the principal legislation that governs the employment framework for the APS employees. It enables the Australian Public Service Commissioner (the Commissioner) to make rules about the classification of APS employees (section 23(1)), which are found in the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 (the Classification Rules). Agency heads must comply with these rules (section 23(3)).

The Classification Rules is the legislative instrument that governs APS classification arrangements. It provides the foundation for mobility within the APS by specifying a system of managing 'groups of duties' that is common to all APS agencies. From 1 December 2014, under these rules

  • approved classifications are specified (rule 5)
  • an agency head must allocate an approved classification to each employee in the agency, based on the group of duties to be performed (rule 6)
  • an agency head must allocate an approved classification to each group of duties to be performed in the agency, based on the work value of the group of duties (rule 9 (1) (2))
  • for APS, Executive Level and SES classifications, the allocation of the approved classification must be based on the work value as described in the work level standards issued, in writing, by the Australian Public Service Commissioner (the Commissioner) (rule 9(2A))
  • for classifications other than APS, Executive Level or SES levels, agency heads must issue  work level standards, in writing, that describe the work value of the group of duties to be performed in the agency at that classification (rule 10)
  • more than one classification (called a broadband) can be allocated to a group of duties (rule 9(4)).

APS classification system

The APS classification system outlines the key components of managing agency classification arrangements in which objectives regarding consistency, transparency, flexibility and mobility are applied and sustained.

Figure 1.1 The APS classification system

Objectives of the classification system

The objectives of the APS classification system are consistency, transparency, flexibility and mobility.


The APS classification system seeks to be consistent and equitable by grouping together duties of a similar work value within the same classification level. Consistency requires a credible and defensible method of establishing the work value of each job and the relativities between all work levels. This is achieved through a job evaluation system based on work value standards set for each work level.


Classification arrangements that are supported by clearly defined work level standards support an open and transparent classification system.


The classification system supports flexibility by recognising that some jobs in the APS are quite different to most others.

Agencies can accommodate these particular jobs within the classification structure by

  • using local titles to more meaningfully 'label' jobs in addition to the approved classification level
  • grouping duties across more than one classification level under a broadband
  • using training classifications to skill employees (usually at entry level) as part of a structured development program tailored to meet an agency's particular requirements regarding jobs and skills.


The APS classification systems supports a unified APS and mobility within the APS by providing a common language to identify and describe the common elements of APS jobs, enabling comparison of roles across agencies and job types.

Applying the classification system

The classification system is applied and supported through legislative provisions, policy guidance and support tools.

The PS Act and the Classification Rules have already been identified as the legislative basis for the classification system, providing a common foundation for classification management across all APS agencies. This foundation is supported by a range of policy guidance and supporting tools.

APS work level standards

Work level standards for the APS have been developed to

  • provide a consistent platform for classifying jobs
  • accommodate the diversity of roles across the APS, and
  • highlight the key differences between each classification level.

From 1 December 2014, the Classification Rules require that agencies adopt the APS work level standards for APS 1–6 Level and Executive Level classifications (issued by the Commissioner) whenever allocating a relevant classification. These can be found at  www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/current-publications/worklevel-standards

Agencies have been required to adopt the APS Senior Executive Service work level standards issued by the Commissioner, since 2012. These can be found at www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/current-publications/ses-worklevels

APS classification guide

The APS classification guide (this guide) provides policy and practical guidance on classification management to assist with a shared understanding of the broad framework and underlying principles of the APS classification system. Advice and practical examples are provided to assist agencies to put these principles into practice.

Role evaluation tools

Role evaluation is the way the work value of new and existing roles can be assessed in a structured and systematic way. The Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) has developed role evaluation tools that can be used by agencies to assist in assessing roles for the APS Level and Executive Level classifications and the SES classifications.

APS Role evaluation tool and guidance can be found at www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/current-publications/role_evaluation_guide

SES Evaluation Methodology Guidelines and Process can be found at www.apsc.gov.au/aps-employment-policy-and-advice/ses/ses-classifications

Agency policy and procedures

Agencies may develop their own policies, procedures and guidelines that support the common foundation of the APS classification system and complement the APS-wide guidance issued by the Commission.

Agencies may use supplementary guidance to assist them to apply work level standards, but any agency specific guidance must not be inconsistent with the APS work level standards.

Sustaining the classification system

The APS classification system is implemented and sustained within agencies through communication, oversight and education.


Classification policies and procedures need to be communicated to employees and in particular to managers and other agency decision-makers who make assessments regarding work value. This includes an explanation of the classification principles, job evaluation requirements and any agency-specific requirements.


There must be robust oversight within agencies regarding the application of the classification system, such as strategic monitoring of changes in the classification profile. Agency classification data is captured and benchmarked across the APS in the annual State of the Service Report published by the Commissioner.


Agencies are responsible for ensuring their decision-makers are appropriately educated about their responsibilities. The Commission provides from time to time learning and development programs regarding APS Classification arrangements, in addition to supporting tools regarding work level standards and role evaluation.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018