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Recruitment: Legislation

Recruitment: Legislation

Last updated: August 2018

This page sets out the basic legislative requirements for recruitment in the Australian Public Service (APS) under the Public Service Act 1999. It is part of the Management essentials series.

For more information on recruitment in the APS, see also:

Topic Legislation


  • Public Service Act 1999—PS Act
  • Public Service Regulations 1999—Regulations
  • Australian Public Service Commissioner's  Directions 2016—Directions
  • Public Service Classification Rules 2000—Classification Rules

1. Power to employ

An agency head, on behalf of the Commonwealth, may engage persons as employees for the purposes of the agency. PS Act s22(1)

2. Term of employment

The engagement of an APS employee must be:
  1. as an ongoing employee (where there is no nominated end date); or
  2. for a specified term or duration of a specified task;* or
  3. for duties that are irregular or intermittent.*

*See Non-ongoing (temporary) employment: Legislation for more detail.

PS Act s22(2)

3. Merit

APS workplaces must be free from discrimination, patronage and favouritism.

All engagement and promotion decisions must be based on merit.

Merit is defined in the PS Act. There are two key components—reasonable opportunity to apply and assessment of applicants.

a. Opportunity to apply

Ongoing vacancies and vacancies for more than 18 months

The following vacancies must be advertised in the Public Service Gazette (the Gazette) which is part of the APSjobs website:

  1. all ongoing jobs
  2. jobs for a specified term or task for more than 18 months.

The closing date for applications must be at least 7 days from the date the vacancy was  advertised, unless there are special circumstances and the agency head has approved a shorter period.

The decision to fill a vacancy—or a similar vacancy as defined—must be made within 12 months of the date on which it was advertised in the Gazette.

Vacancies for  18 months or less or irregular/intermittent duties

A non-ongoing vacancy that is for 18 months or less, or for duties that are irregular or intermittent, does not need to be advertised in the Gazette.

However, to comply with the provisions of merit, as far as practicable eligible members of the community must be given a reasonable opportunity to apply.

b. Assessment of applicants

Ongoing vacancies and vacancies for more than 18 months

A decision to engage or promote must be based on an assessment of:

  1. the relative suitability of the applicants, using a competitive selection process; and
  2. the relationship between the applicant's work-related qualities and the work-related qualities—as defined—necessary to undertake the role.

The assessment must:

  1. focus on the relative capacity of the applicants to achieve outcomes related to the job; and
  2. be the primary consideration in making the decision.

A competitive selection process also requires that:

  1. the aim and purpose of the selection process is determined in advance and information about the process is made readily available to applicants; and
  2. the process is applied fairly to each applicant and is appropriately documented.

Vacancies for 18 months or less or irregular/intermittent duties

As a minimum requirement, an agency head must be satisfied that the person has the work-related qualities required to perform the duties.

Senior Executive Service (SES)

In addition to the above requirements, when engaging or promoting an SES employee, the Australian Public Service Commissioner—or his or her representative—must be a full participant in the selection process and must certify that the process has complied with the PS Act and Directions.

PS Act s10A(1)(f)

PS Act s10A(1)(c)

PS Act s10A(2)

Directions s20

Directions s20(1)(c)

Directions s20(1)(a)

Directions s22(3)

PS Act s10A(2)(b)

PS Act s10A(2)(c)

Directions s10

PS Act s10A(2)(d)

PS Act s10A(2)(e)

Directions s19

Directions s22(4)

Directions s21

4. Review rights

Where a current ongoing APS employee, at APS 1 to APS 5 level or equivalent, is unsuccessful in applying for a promotion—and the successful applicant is promoted—then the unsuccessful applicant may be entitled in certain circumstances to have the promotion decision reviewed by the Merit Protection Commissioner.

Regulation 5.7

5. Other employment matters

Other matters to consider when recruiting an APS employee include:

  1. conditions of engagement
  2. requirement for Australian citizenship
  3. allocation of a classification to the employee
  4. assignment of duties to the employee
  5. restrictions that apply where a person has received a redundancy benefit

PS Act s22(6)

PS Act s22(8)

Classification Rules, Rule 6

PS Act s25

Directions s48


Last reviewed: 
5 March 2019