The following information is on the application of the principle of merit in the APS.
Merit is a key part of Australian Public Service (APS) employment and is supported by legislation. The APS Employment Principles
in section 10A of the Public Service Act 1999 (the
Act) provide that the
APS makes decisions relating to engagement and promotion based on merit.
A decision to engage or promote a person is based on merit if:
all eligible members of the community are given a reasonable opportunity to apply
an assessment is made of the relative suitability of candidates, using a competitive selection
the assessment is based on the relationship between the candidates' work-related qualities
and the qualities genuinely required to perform the relevant duties
the assessment focuses on the relative capacity of candidates to achieve outcomes related
to the relevant duties
the assessment is the primary consideration in making the employment decision.
The application of merit in APS engagement and promotion decisions is explained in Part 3 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016 (the Dire
Notification of vacancies
Job vacancies which may result in:
the engagement or promotion of an ongoing employee
the engagement of a non-ongoing employee for an initial period of more than 18 months
must be notified in the Public Service Gazette (the Gazette) within a period of 12 months before the
written decision to engage or promote the person is made.
Further information see Gazette requirements.
While non-ongoing opportunities of 18 months or less are not required to be notified in the Gazette
they must be brought to the attention of the community in a manner that provides a reasonable
opportunity to apply. For example, these vacancies can be advertised on agency web sites, on job
seeker sites or on social media.
Where it is proposed to engage a person on a short-term, irregular or intermittent basis, see non-
ongoing APS employment.
Competitive selection processes
A competitive selection process:
is determined in advance and information about the process is readily available to applicants
includes notification of the vacancy in accordance with the Directions
is applied fairly in relation to each eligible applicant
is appropriately documented, and
is free from discrimination, patronage and favouritism.
The work-related qualities that may be taken into account when making an assessment of a
candidate's suitability include:
skills and abilities
qualifications, training and competencies
standard of work performance
capacity to produce outcomes by effective performance at the level required
relevant personal qualities, such as honesty and integrity
potential for further development
ability to contribute to team performance.
There are certain secondary considerations that may be taken into account if they relate to matters
within the control of the applicant. These include a candidate's:
ability to start by a particular date
willingness to relocate, or
ability to meet other reasonable agency requirements.
Secondary selection considerations should be directly related to the relative suitability of a person to
perform the duties or the work-related qualities needed to perform the duties.
Agencies should ensure that merit is still the primary consideration in making the decision. Any
secondary consideration that is applied needs to be consistent with other elements of the APS
Employment Principles and not used in a way that constitutes patronage or favouritism, or direct or
indirect discrimination under anti-discrimination law.
If the results of a selection process are to be used at a later time to fill a similar vacancy
any secondary considerations will need to be applied or reapplied at that time to identify the most
suitable applicant. For example, a person not selected initially because they could not start on a
particular date will remain on the merit list.
Following a selection process, an agency may identify candidates that are suitable to fill the vacancy,
but who may not be offered a role immediately. A decision can be made to employ a person who
has been found to be suitable for a vacancy or similar vacancy
if the decision is made within 12
months of the original vacancy being notified in the Gazette.
A vacancy can be considered to be a similar vacancy if:
a. one of the following applies
it is in the same Agency
it is an SES vacancy
it is a vacancy in a centrally coordinated entry-level program
the Agency Head of the Agency in which the notified vacancy existed, another
Agency Head and a candidate who applied for the notified vacancy agree, in writing,
that the vacancy is a similar vacancy in relation to the candidate
if the notified vacancy relates to a function that was moved to another Agency after
the notification by a machinery of government change—it is in the Agency to which
the function was moved; and
b. all of the following apply:
it is the same category of employment (ongoing or non-ongoing)
it comprises similar duties
it is at the same classification
it is to be performed in a similar location.
Agencies can make a decision to employ a person who has been found to be suitable from a
recruitment process undertaken by another agency
all SES positions
all centrally coordinated entry level programs such as the Indigenous Pathways program or
where otherwise agreed between the two agencies and the candidate.
More information on sharing merit lists between agencies can be found here.
Additional requirements for SES recruitment.
Information about the recruitment of Indigenous Australians.
Information about the recruitment of people with a disability.
Provisions enabling re-engagement of election candidates in
Information about the employment of people as a result of a machinery of government
Information about the engagement of an ongoing Parliamentary Service employee as an
ongoing APS employee.
scheme supports people with disability applying for jobs in the APS by giving them
a better opportunity to put forward their skills and experience during the selection process. The
RecruitAbility scheme facilitates the progression of applicants with disability to further assessment in
APS recruitment exercises, such as interview, when they opt into the scheme and meet the
minimum requirements for the position. It also aims to build the confidence of applicants with
disability and selection panel members in assessing applicants with disability.
Public Service Act 1999 –
Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016 –