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Promotion in The Irish Civil Service

There are two routes to promotion in the Civil Service:

  • External via the Civil Service-wide promotion process, and
  • Non-External via the promotion processes within individual Departments.


The recruitment, assessment and selection body for the Civil Service is the Public Appointments Service (PAS). They advertise and arrange:

  • Open Competitions (open to existing Civil Servants and non-Civil Servants)
  • Special Open Competitions relating to specific groups e.g. disabled persons
  • Confined competitions which are open to existing Civil Servants only.


An interview-based system operates for promotion. This comprises of a competency-based competitive interview, for all grades up the level of Principal Officer.

Cross-Stream Promotion in the Civil Service

In July 2011 the Commission for Public Service Appointments (CPSA) issued a report in respect of eligibility criteria for promotion of staff in the Civil Service. The CPSA report recommended that:-

“in establishing eligibility criteria for promotions to positions in the Civil Service, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform removes any criteria that may prevent Civil Servants with the requisite knowledge, skills, experience and attributes from applying for these positions.”

The implementation of the CPSA report was considered by the Official and Staff side at a sub-committee of General Council. Agreement between the parties on the arrangements to apply to future promotion competitions was recorded at the General Council meeting of 27th November 2013.

These new arrangements are designed to ensure that the pool of suitably qualified candidates competing for promotion roles is not restricted on the basis of their current salary band.

In summary, whereas previously eligibility for promotion was generally based on a defined period of service in the grade immediately below that of the post to be filled this will no longer be the case.

The new arrangements provide that where a post is to be filled by way of promotion, the relevant job descriptions and person specifications should set out:-

(a) the purpose and deliverables required for relevant positions or grades; and

(b) the experience, knowledge and skills required of a candidate to be suitable for consideration for appointment to the position or grade.

A copy of the CPSA Report and a letter to Personnel Officers with General Council report 1526 can be seen in the Related Topics box.

Top Level Appointments Commission

The selection process for senior appointments at or above Assistant Secretary level or equivalent is conducted by a Top Level Appointments Commission.

Top Level Appointments Commission

Starting Pay on Promotion

The rules governing starting pay on promotion to a higher grade are set out in Circular 34/77 . Civil Servants promoted through internal confined competitions are entitled to the more favourable of the following:

  • The minimum point of the new scale.
  • Pay equivalent to their existing pay, including their accrued increment on the current scale, if any, plus an immediate increment on the new scale.

Civil Servants recruited from external competitions under Public Appointments Service (PAS) are entitled to the more favourable of the following:

  • The minimum point of the new scale.
  • Pay equivalent to their existing pay including any accrued increment.

Personal enquiries from individual officers should be referred to the officer’s own Personnel Section.

Revised arrangements applying to starting pay has been agreed at General Council between the Official Staff Sides in Circular 08 of 2019 which sets out reformed arrangements applying to starting pay and to how existing civil servants are treated when promoted from confined competitions or are appointed/recruited from open competitions.

These arrangements support and facilitate implementation of the commitment under Action 15 of the Civil Service Renewal Plan to “expand career and mobility opportunities for staff across geographic, organisational and sectoral boundaries”.

The commitment under Action 15 of the Renewal Plan is reflected in Section 2 of the PSSA 2018-2020 which deals with the elimination of barriers to public service mobility. In  particular, paragraph 2.8.3 provides that:

“building on earlier work on the standardisation of terms and conditions of employment across the public service, the Parties agree to review current arrangements for starting pay on transfer and promotion in the public service with a view to simpliyfying and modernising the current arrangements and removing impediments to cross-sectoral mobility”.

Summary of measures included in the revised circular:

  • Existing civil servants who are appointed to a higher post will receive the same conditionality irrespective of whether they are appointed from a confined or open competition.
  • In respect of the treatment of allowances, where an appointee has been in receipt of an allowance in the nature of pay, it is clarified that an appointee may not benefit twice from the same allowance in the calculation of starting pay.
  • The arrangements for the treatment of appointees from the public service to an analogous post in the Civil Service which are set out in the Department’s letter of November 2015 are incorporated into the new circular.
  • Marking time has been eliminated with effect from 1 January 2018. Existing civil servants appointed from open competition from that date will have their starting pay reviewed.
  • The discounting of 3/4 years’ service based on age points in the Civil Service arrangements in respect of incremental credit are being removed.

Implementation Date

The implementation date agreed is 1 January 2018 and, as a consequence, some officers will be due an element of retrospection.

The calculation of any retrospection due will require the NSSO to review the cases of officers that are currently marking time to identify the amount involved. The NSSO will undertake this task as quickly as possible but it may take a number of months for this to be completed.

Incremental Credit