This document is part of the Victorian Public Entity executive employment resource.

Summary of mandatory requirements and responsibilities

3.1 Values and conduct

The Victorian public sector is made up of public service bodies and public entities. The public sector funds, delivers and regulates a range of public services on behalf of government. The Public Sector Values define the behaviours expected of employees – outlined in section 7 of the PAA:

Responsiveness – public officials should demonstrate responsiveness by:

  • providing frank, impartial and timely advice to Government
  • providing high quality services to the Victorian community
  • identifying and promoting best practice.

Integrity – public officials should demonstrate integrity by:

  • being honest, open and transparent in their dealings
  • using powers responsibly
  • reporting improper conduct
  • avoiding any real or apparent conflicts of interest
  • striving to earn and sustain public trust of a high level.

Impartiality – public officials should demonstrate impartiality by:

  • making decisions and providing advice on merit without bias, caprice, favouritism or self-interest
  • acting fairly by objectively considering all relevant facts and applying fair criteria
  • implementing government policies and programs equitably.

Accountability – public officials should demonstrate accountability by:

  • working to clear objectives in a transparent manner
  • accepting responsibility for their decisions and actions
  • seeking to achieve best use of resources
  • submitting themselves to appropriate scrutiny.

Respect – public officials should demonstrate respect for colleagues, other public officials and members of the Victorian community by:

  • treating others fairly and objectively
  • ensuring freedom from discrimination, harassment and bullying
  • using their views to improve outcomes on an ongoing basis.

Leadership – public officials should demonstrate leadership by:

  • actively implementing, promoting and supporting these values.

Human Rights – public officials should respect and promote the human rights set out in the Charter of Human Rights by:

  • making decisions and providing advice consistent with human rights
  • actively implementing, promoting and supporting human rights.

The Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees and the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees of Special Bodies reinforce the values. The Victorian Public Sector Values and Codes of Conduct are a public statement of how we conduct our business and how we treat our clients and colleagues.

3.2 Conflict of interest

In line with the Code of Conduct, when executives are performing public duties, their private interests must not influence, or be seen to influence decisions. Personal interests can change over time as personal circumstances change. Conflicts of interest must be declared and managed or avoided.
Conflicts of interest can be actual, perceived or potential:
  • an actual conflict of interest is one where there is a real conflict between public duties and private interests
  • a potential conflict of interest arises where private interests could conflict with public duties
  • a perceived conflict of interest is where a third party could form the view that an executive’s private interests could improperly influence their actions as a public sector employee, now and in the future.
Examples of where a conflict of interest may arise include where an executive has other significant sources of income, is an office holder in a public or private company or has shareholdings and other business interests. It also includes family interests that may represent a conflict of interest through ownership of real estate or being a trustee or beneficiary of a trust. VPSC has published a Model Conflict of Interest policy, guidance and supporting materials to assist public entities. The model policy sets standards for managing conflict of interest risks that reflect Code of Conduct requirements for Victorian public sector employees.
Executives are not only required to disclose their interests, but also take reasonable steps to identify and manage a conflict, or the appearance of a conflict of interest. All executives are required to complete a declaration and management of private interests form upon appointment (prior to their contract being entered into) and annually after appointment or within five working days after a change in circumstances (i.e. to any matter relating to information that an executive has previously disclosed in their form, for example, change of residence). Conflicts of interest should be declared using the public entity’s conflict of interest declaration and management form.
Public entities are encouraged to monitor and revise their policies and procedures in relation to identifying, reporting and managing conflicts of interest. If an executive is unsure if they have a conflict, it is recommended that they contact their HR area for further advice.

3.3 Gifts, benefits and hospitality

The way public sector employees manage offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality is critical to maintaining the trust of the community. Employees need to act in a manner that allows the community, customers, government, clients and business associates to feel confident that they perform public duties without favoritism or bias, or for personal gain.
VPSC has issued a Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Policy Guide, which includes minimum accountabilities for public sector employees. These minimum accountabilities are binding on public entities under the Department of Treasury and Finance issued Instruction 3.4.11 supporting the Standing Directions of the Minister for Finance. The minimum accountabilities are:

Public officials offered gifts, benefits and hospitality:

  • Do not, for themselves or others, seek or solicit gifts, benefits and hospitality.
  • Refuse all offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality that:
    • are money, items used in a similar way to money, or items easily converted to money
    • give rise to an actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest
    • may adversely affect their standing as a public official or which may bring their public sector employer or the public sector into disrepute or
    • are non-token offers without a legitimate business benefit.
  • Declare all non-token offers (valued at $50 or more1) of gifts, benefits and hospitality (whether accepted or declined) on the public entity’s register and seek written approval from their manager or delegate to accept any non-token offer.
  • Refuse bribes or inducements and report inducements and bribery attempts to the head of the public entity or their delegate (who should report any criminal or corrupt conduct to Victoria Police or the Independent Broad-based Anti corruption Commission).

1 Except where a person employed under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 in a Victorian government school receives an offer from or on behalf of a parent, guardian, carer or student intended to express appreciation of the person’s contribution to the education of a student or students, in which case non-token includes any offer worth more than $100.

Public officials providing gifts, benefits and hospitality:

  • Ensure that any gift, benefit and hospitality is provided for a business purpose in that it furthers the conduct of official business or other legitimate organisational goals or promotes and supports government policy objectives and priorities.
  • Ensure that any costs are proportionate to the benefits obtained for the State, and would be considered reasonable in terms of community expectations.
  • Ensure that when hospitality is provided, individuals demonstrate professionalism in their conduct, and uphold their obligation to extend a duty of care to other participants.

Heads of public entities:

  • Establish, implement and review organisational policies and processes for the effective management of gifts, benefits and hospitality that comprehensively address these minimum accountabilities.
  • Establish and maintain a register for gifts, benefits and hospitality offered to public officials that, at a minimum, records sufficient information to effectively monitor, assess and report on these minimum accountabilities.
  • Communicate and make clear within the public entity that a breach of the gifts, benefits and hospitality policies or processes may constitute a breach of binding codes of conduct and may constitute criminal or corrupt conduct, and may result in disciplinary action.
  • Establish and communicate a clear policy position to business associates on the offering of gifts, benefits and hospitality to employees, including possible consequences for a business associate acting contrary to the public entity’s policy position. This must take into consideration any Whole of Victorian Government supplier codes of conduct.
  • Report at least annually to the public entity’s audit committee on the administration and quality control of its gifts, benefits and hospitality policy, processes and register. This report must include analysis of the public entity’s gifts, benefits and hospitality risks (including repeat offers from the same source and offers from business associates), risk mitigation measures and any proposed improvements.
  • Publish the public entity’s gifts, benefits and hospitality policy and register on the public entity’s public website (applies only to public entities with an established website). The published register should cover the current and the previous financial year.

Definitions:

Benefits – preferential treatment, privileged access, favours or other advantage offered including invitations to sporting, cultural or social events, access to discounts and loyalty programs, and promises of a new job.

Gifts – free or discounted items or services and any item or service that would generally be seen by the public as a gift. These include items of high value (e.g. artwork, jewellery, or expensive pens), low value (e.g. small bunch of flowers), consumables (e.g. chocolates) and services (e.g. painting and repairs).

Hospitality – a friendly reception and entertainment of guests. Hospitality may range from light refreshments at a business meeting to expensive restaurant meals and sponsored travel and accommodation.

Disciplinary action consistent with the relevant industrial instrument and legislation, including dismissal, may be taken where an employee fails to adhere to this policy. This includes where an employee fails to avoid wherever possible or identify, declare and manage a conflict of interest related to gifts, benefits and hospitality in accordance with VPSC’s Conflict of Interest Policy.

3.4 Professional Lobbyists Code of Conduct

In Victoria, lobbyists and government affairs directors are required to be listed on the Register of Lobbyists to engage in lobbying activities. They must comply with the Victorian Government Professional Lobbyist Code of Conduct. This Code also places obligations on executives who have contact with lobbyists and government affairs directors.
A lobbyist is a person or organisation who represents the interests of a third party to government. Lobbyists can strengthen democracy by advising individuals and organisations on public policy processes and by facilitating contact with relevant government representatives.
A government affairs director (GAD) is a person who makes regular enquiries, advocates changes to public policy, or seeks specific assistance from government in a paid capacity of an organisation or business or professional or trade association.
The following obligations apply to executives in the public sector:
  • Executives must not knowingly and intentionally be party to lobbying activities by a lobbyist or government affairs director who is not listed on the Register of Lobbyists.
  • When first contacted by a lobbyist, executives should ensure they are informed of which clients the lobbyist is representing, the nature of the clients’ issues, and whether the clients are involved in a government tender process.
  • Executives must not be party to lobbying activities when they are involved in a government tender process.
  • Executives should review the Professional Lobbyists Code of Conduct to ensure they are aware of the details of these requirements. An executive’s failure to comply with these obligations could be considered a breach of the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees and result in disciplinary action.

3.5 Standard Public Entity Executive Employment Contract

The terms and conditions of an executive’s employment are set out in the executive’s employment contract. The employment contract puts into writing the expectations of both parties. The Standard Contract is a model contract that should be used in all public entities. The Standard Contract for public entities can be downloaded from the VPSC website.
The Standard Contract includes mandatory terms, which cannot be removed in individual employment contracts. The mandatory terms are set out in the Public Entity Executive Remuneration Policy. The VPSC strongly encourages the use of the non-mandatory clauses unless there is a clear business reason or a requirement of the specific role for the variation. Schedules appended to the standard executive employment contract set out the position, duties, location, and remuneration package that are specific to an executive.
Although public entities are able to vary the model clauses in the Standard Contract, there are some issues and risks associated with drafting new clauses. Public entities should seek legal advice when making changes to the model clauses.
There is no minimum term of employment. The length of employment can be agreed between the two parties as long as the term does not exceed five years.

3.6 Work/life balance

The Victorian Government supports a balance between work and family for all Victorians. The Government has demonstrated this commitment through the Wages Policy 2019, which requires that all public entities operationalise elements to the Government’s priorities in employment, such as gender equity and flexible working arrangements.
Executives can be offered flexible work arrangements to enable a balance of work with other life activities including family, health, study, sport and exercise, carer responsibilities, hobbies, and life or career aspirations.
This section outlines the various benefits the may be available in public entity employment that go beyond simply financial rewards.

Flexible working arrangements

The Victorian Government supports flexible work arrangements to enable a balance of work with other life activities including caring for family, contributing to the community, maintaining health and wellbeing, studying, transitioning to retirement or participating in leisure activities.
Processes will differ from one public entity to another, but the goal should be to reach an outcome in which an individual’s needs for flexibility are met, consistent with business requirements, industrial instruments and legislative requirements.
Flexible working arrangements include flexible start and finish times, working part-time, job sharing, etc. Executives can negotiate with their employer their working hours to fit with their other commitments, balanced against the demands of the role.

Support programs

In many public entities, executives can access support programs through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The EAP is a personal coaching and counselling service that offers confidential, short-term support for a variety of work-related and personal issues that may be affecting an executive at work or at home.

A qualified advisor from the EAP can talk with the executive or a member of the executive’s immediate family over the phone or arrange a face-to-face consultation at an agreed location, either on or off site. If an executive decides to access the EAP, their details are not passed on to anyone in their public entity.

Professional development

To meet the challenges facing Victoria, our public sector needs high performing, diverse and collaborative leaders who deliver high quality services and outcomes for our community. Each public entity will approach leadership development in light of the specific capability needs and strategic aims of the public entity. Executives should discuss development opportunities with the public entity’s HR unit directly.

Executives may be able to access opportunities to undertake intensive study focused on leadership in the public sector. For example, study programs include the Executive Fellow Programs and Executive Master of Public Administration offered by the Australia and New Zealand School of Government. VPSC and the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) have adapted the Company Directors Course to the public sector. Further information on the Company Directors Course for the Victorian Public Sector is available on the VPSC website.

Diverse and inclusive culture

A diverse public sector is best equipped to understand, value and deliver for the Victorian community. Current Whole of Victorian Government strategies are focused on increasing the low representation and improving employment experiences of Aboriginal employees, those with a disability, LGBTI employees and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD).

Executives play a significant role in improving and driving inclusion across the sector. The VPSC website lists current diversity programs and initiatives and executives are encouraged to familiarise themselves with these.

Outside employment

Executives must seek the approval of their employer before engaging in any outside employment. The opportunity exists for executives to seek a leave of absence to undertake outside work that contributes to their professional development. Executives may also be able to undertake other secondary work unrelated to their position (so long as there is agreement with the employer). Executives must ensure that there is no direct or indirect conflict of interest arising from the secondary work they undertake (refer to Section 3.2 – Conflict of interest).

Health and wellbeing

The employer may require an executive to undergo and satisfactorily pass a medical examination by a qualified medical practitioner (at the employer’s expense). Check with the employer’s HR unit for details on how to access a medical check. A medical check entitlement should not be ‘cashed in’ or used for expenses such gym memberships.