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5: APS Code of Conduct

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The APS Code of Conduct sets out the standard of conduct required of APS employees. The Code of Conduct is designed to protect the integrity of the APS and thereby maintain public confidence in public administration.

The Code is set out in section 13 of the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act). All agency heads, Statutory Office Holders and APS employees are required to comply with the Code (section 14 of the PS Act).

Section 15(3) of the PS Act requires agency heads to establish procedures for determining whether a breach of the Code has occurred, which must comply with the basic requirements set out in Chapter 5 of the Public Service Commissioner's Directions 1999.

Clause 2.5 of the Public Service Commissioner's Directions 1999 requires agency heads to put in place measures in the agency directed at ensuring that APS employees in the agency are aware of the content of the Code of Conduct, as well as any other conduct requirements prescribed under section 13(13) of the PS Act or agency-specific conduct requirements. Agency heads should also put in place measures directed at ensuring that employees are aware of the consequences of breaching the Code, or any other conduct requirement, and are aware of the procedures in the agency for dealing with a breach of the Code of Conduct.

In cases of suspected misconduct an agency head may consider if suspension, or temporary re-assignment to other duties is appropriate in the circumstances. Under regulation 3.10 of the Public Service Regulations 1999 (Public Service Regulations) an agency head may suspend an employee from duty if the agency head believes that the employee has, or may have, breached the Code of Conduct, and the employee’s suspension is in the public, or the agency’s, interest. Suspension may be with or without remuneration. If it is without remuneration, the period of suspension is limited to 30 days, unless exceptional circumstances apply. Suspension must be reviewed at regular intervals.

If an employee is found to have breached the Code, an agency head may decide to impose a sanction. There is a range of sanctions that may be imposed, which are set out in section 15(1) of the PS Act.

Agency heads are bound by the APS Values to provide a fair system of review of decisions taken in respect of APS employees.

A non-SES employee who has been found to have breached the Code of Conduct and who wishes to challenge either the determination that a breach has occurred or the sanction imposed (except in the case of termination of employment), may lodge an application for a review of actions under Division 5.3 of the Regulations. A decision to suspend an employee can also be the subject of review.

An application for review of a determination that an employee has breached the Code of Conduct, or of a sanction imposed for a breach of the Code, must be made to the Merit Protection Commissioner (regulation 5.24(2) of the Public Service Regulations). Applications for the review of decisions relating to suspension will generally be made in the first instance to the agency head (regulation 5.24(1) of the Public Service Regulations).

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