Standing for an elected office
Election candidates - resigning from the APS
Generally, an Australian Public Service (APS) employee may not stand for election to a Commonwealth or State House of Parliament or the Legislative Assembly of the ACT or Northern Territory while still an APS employee. While the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act) does not require APS employees to resign to contest an election, the applicable electoral legislation may require a candidate to resign from the APS to be eligible to run.
APS employees who are considering being a candidate in an election should seek their own legal advice as to whether they can be an eligible candidate while still employed in the APS. They should ensure they inform themselves on their agency’s re-engagement process in event of not being elected.
Unsuccessful election candidates – re-engaging and returning to the APS
Section 32 of the PS Act provides a right of return to a person who resigns from APS employment in order to contest a specified election.
Section 37 of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2022 (the Directions) sets out conditions of re-engagement and return, the elections that are specified and time limits that apply. APS employees considering resigning to be an election candidate should inform themselves of these conditions.
A person who has resigned in order to be a candidate in a specified election and who has been unsuccessful in that election may return to the APS agency in which they were last employed, without having to go through a recruitment process where they meet the requirements of the Directions.
An employee who resigned with the intention of contesting a specified election, but subsequently did not stand in that election, would not be eligible for engagement under these arrangements.
The unsuccessful election candidate must apply to the agency in which they were last employed within the following time limits:
- where the result of the election is not disputed, two months after the declaration of the result of the election, and
- where the result of the election is disputed, two months after:
- a court of disputed returns decides the petition disputing the result; or
- the petition is withdrawn or lapses.
In certain circumstances, the Australian Public Service Commissioner may declare that an unsuccessful candidate was an employee of another, specified agency. This situation may arise, for example, where the agency in which the person was last employed no longer exists, or the person's duties have been moved to another agency.
In these circumstances, the person must apply to the relevant agency as soon as practicable after receiving notice of the declaration.
Treatment of service on re-engagement
Where a person is re-engaged under section 32 of the Act, continuity of service is taken to have not been broken by the period between their resignation and their re-engagement for the purposes of calculating leave entitlements or redundancy pay.
The period between resignation and re-engagement does not count as service for the purposes of the National Employment Standards, or any employment arrangement that applies to the employee. This period does not accrue any entitlements.
For entitlements to long service leave and paid maternity leave, see the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976 and the Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1973.
An unsuccessful election candidate who had been previously employed on a non-ongoing or temporary basis is generally only entitled to return if:
- the employment would not have otherwise ended if the person had not resigned to contest an election, and
- the person applies to the Agency Head to be engaged again before the employment would have ended.
Other considerations – obligations under the APS Code of Conduct
Under the APS Code of Conduct, APS employees have an obligation to take reasonable steps to avoid any real or apparent conflict of interest in connection with employment. APS employees are also required to uphold the APS Values and Employment Principles and the good reputation of their agency and the APS at all times.
Employees have the right to be politically active; however, this right needs to be balanced with the obligations of APS employment. The APS Values and Code of Conduct in Practice , includes guidance on political activity and standing for election in Section 6, and conflicts of interest in Section 5.
The Social media: Guidance for Australian Public Service Employees and Agencies provides a framework for balancing APS employees’ rights as citizens with the obligations of public service employment.
Queries relating to the APS Values and Code of Conduct, conflict of interest, or the APSC’s social media guidance, please contact the Ethics Advisory Service.
For more information on standing for an election, contact the Employment Policy team via, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (02) 6202 3857.