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What are my responsibilities as a referee?

APS Values and Code of Conduct in Practice provides advice for managers and employees in the APS about the application of the Code of Conduct and the APS Values. Section 3.5 of the publication discusses honesty in recruitment and promotion in more detail.

See also Section 8.4 of Handling Misconduct.

As part of your role as a supervisor or manager, or even as a colleague, you might be asked to be a referee. This could be in relation to a current or former employee, and for an APS job or a job outside the service.

The Privacy Act 1988 applies to providing references. The Code of Conduct requires employees to behave honestly and with integrity at all times, and to act with care and diligence. The APS Values also require ethical behaviour.

As a referee, you have a responsibility to be forthright and honest in your assessment of the candidate's capabilities and work performance. You might be asked about other work-related qualities relevant to the job, such as the candidate's attendance and behaviour, or their personal qualities such as their integrity. You should avoid making any comment that is not relevant to the work-related qualities required for the job.

Referees should have the courage to provide adverse information about the applicant where this is relevant. It is a very good idea to let the candidate know what you intend to say when they ask you to be a referee. The selection panel may give the candidate a chance to respond to any adverse comments you make.

Your agency may have internal policies relating to referees. Check what's on your agency's intranet or get advice from your agency's Ethics Contact Officer.

If you have any questions about this article, please submit them via the form on the Integrity: Your questions answered page.

If you are asked a question about prior conduct history, you can't just ignore it, but at the same time you need to be mindful of your privacy obligations. Get some advice from your HR area about what you can disclose.

You may know, for example, that an APS employee applying for a job in your agency or another APS agency has previously been found to have breached the Code of Conduct or is currently under investigation. If this information is relevant to the selection panel's assessment of the person's suitability for the job, you may need to get authority from your agency to disclose the details under Regulation 9.2.

Section 8.4 of Handling Misconduct provides information which will also help you determine whether to disclose information about prior or suspected breaches of the Code.

Have a look at the article 'How can I get information from another APS agency about a job applicant's prior misconduct?' which discusses the same scenario from the perspective of the selection panel.