The Government has decided to implement a targeted voluntary redundancy scheme to help further reduce public sector staffing levels.

However it has not yet set a closing date or target for job cuts under the new scheme.

Public service numbers have already fallen from 320,000 in 2008 to 292,000 this year.

The Government's current target would see the public service fall further to 282,500 by 2015.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has said the matter was discussed at Cabinet following an agreement by Government in July to "accelerate" its programme of staff reduction.

The targeted scheme will be aimed at areas where staff surpluses are identified.

Those who apply will receive the terms of the 2010 HSE redundancy scheme, which provided for three weeks' pay per year of service plus two weeks' statutory redundancy, capped at a maximum of two years’ pay.

There will be no automatic right to redundancy and all applications will be subject to ongoing business needs.

The department said the terms had been agreed centrally with the Public Service Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform added that all areas of the public service would be required to "robustly implement" redeployment arrangements set out in the Croke Park Agreement.

Areas with staff surpluses are currently being identified.

The Secretary of ICTU's Public Services Committee Tom Geraghty voiced surprise at the announcement.

He said he had been aware that a targeted redundancy scheme was being considered but had not expected an announcement today.