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Commission Advice 2013/11: Performance management

Please note - this is an archived circular.

New directions for performance management

The Australian Public Service Commission has developed a series of Advices to assist APS agencies to implement the changes made by the Public Service Amendment Act 2013 (the Amendment Act) to the Public Service Act 1999 (the Act) and subordinate legislation. The Advices are available on the Circulars and advices page of the Commission’s website.

This Advice informs agencies about the new APS Employment Principle in the Act requiring effective performance from each APS employee and changes to the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013 (the Directions) relating to performance management.

The commencement date for the changes is 1 July 2013. The changes to the Act will become part of the law on that date. Agencies will need to take action to prepare for these changes before the commencement date.

Why are these changes being made?

Changes to the Act allow for the Australian Public Service Commissioner (the Commissioner) to issue directions in writing:

  • about employment matters relating to APS employees (subsection 11A(1))
  • in relation to any of the APS Employment Principles for the purposes of ensuring that the APS incorporates and upholds the APS Employment Principles, and to determine, where necessary, the scope or application of the APS Employment Principles (subsection 11A(2)).

New directions have been made about performance management to replace the direction currently in Chapter 2 of the Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 1999 (Direction 2.12) and to take account of the APS Employment Principle which states that the APS is a career-based public service that requires effective performance from each employee (paragraph 10A(1)(d) of the PS Act).

The new directions set out requirements for agency heads in relation to supporting employees to achieve effective performance. They also set out requirements in cases where it is not clear whether an example of poor behaviour by an APS employee is more appropriately dealt with under an agency’s performance management processes or as a potential breach of the Code of Conduct. In particular, the Directions require agency heads to have regard to any relevant standards and guidance set by the Commission before making a decision to initiate a Code of Conduct inquiry in relation to a matter that relates both to effective performance and a possible Code breach. The Commission is currently developing such guidance, and it is expected to be made available to agencies within the next few months.

What changes are being made?

Chapter 4 of the Directions supports the application of paragraph 10A(1)(d) of the PS Act and deals with performance management.

Clause 4.1 of the Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013, provides that in upholding and promoting the Employment Principles in paragraph 10A(1)(d) of the Act, an agency head will support employees to achieve effective performance management by ensuring that their agency:

  • builds the capability necessary to achieve the outcomes expected by the Government;
  • has fair and open performance management processes and practices that support a culture of high performance, in which all performance is effectively managed;
  • provides each APS employee with a clear statement of the performance and behaviour expected of him or her, and an opportunity to discuss his or her responsibilities;
  • requires employees to participate constructively in agency-based performance management processes and practices;
  • agency invests in building the capability of managers to manage performance effectively; and
  • uses its performance management processes to guide salary movement and reward

Clause 4.2 provides that, where the behaviour of an APS employee raises concerns that may relate both to performance and to conduct, the employee’s agency head must have regard to any relevant standards and guidance issued by the Commissioner before making a decision as to whether to deal with the matter as a potential breach of the Code of Conduct under procedures established under subsection 15(3) of the Act.

What do agencies need to do?

Before 1 July 2013, agencies must update their policies and procedures relating to performance management, underperformance and handling suspected misconduct to reflect the changes to the Act and the new Directions. Agencies should refer to Chapter 4 of the Directions.

The Commission will issue further guidance in the near future to help agencies to make decisions about whether to commence a Code of Conduct inquiry in cases where a matter raises concerns that relate both to performance and possible Code breaches.

What transitional arrangements need to be put in place

No transitional arrangements are required.

Further information

The Amendment Act, the Public Service Amendment Regulation 2013 and the Australian Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 2013 are available on the Comlaw website.

This Advice should be read in conjunction with:

Enquiries from agencies’ corporate services staff can be made by email at ethics [at] apsc.gov.au or by telephone on 02 6202 3737.

APS employees who have queries about how the changes will affect them are asked to contact the HR area in their agency.


Damian West
Group Manager, Client Engagement
Australian Public Service Commission

April 2013

Last reviewed: 
9 July 2018