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

This section sets out the public service working environment, the standard executive employment contract and work/life balance philosophy.

Summary

Victorian public sector staff must comply with the public sector values (Section 7 of the PAA 2004) and Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees and Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees of Special Bodies.

Executive employment is governed by a written standard employment contract. If a contract has not been entered into before employment, a contract should be entered into as soon as possible after the employment commencement date. To accommodate special circumstances, however, the PAA stipulates that a contract can be entered into up to 3 months after the employment commencement date.

Executives in the public service must also comply with the Victorian Government Professional Lobbyists Code of Conduct.

Executives have access to a number of benefits as part of their employment in the VPS including flexible work arrangements, support programs, and study options.

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.

The Public Sector Values are outlined in section 7 of the PAA:

Responsiveness

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

Integrity

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

Impartiality

  • 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; and
  • implementing Government policies and programs equitably.

Accountability

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

Respect

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

Leadership

  • actively implementing, promoting and supporting these values.

Human Rights

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

The Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees and 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. The values and Code of Conduct are binding on all public sector employees.

3.2 Conflict of interest

In line with the Code of Conduct, when executives are performing public duties, 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 where a conflict of interest may arise include where the 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. The VPSC has published a model conflict of interest policy and guidance and supporting materials to assist organisations. 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 part of information that an executive has previously disclosed in their form, for example, change of residence). Conflicts of interest should be declared using the organisation’s Conflict of Interest declaration and management form.

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 those we serve. 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 favouritism or bias, or for personal gain.

The VPSC has issued a Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Policy Guide and minimum accountabilities for public sector employees. These stipulate that:

Public officials offered gifts, benefits and hospitality:

1. Do not, for themselves or others, seek or solicit gifts, benefits and hospitality.

2. 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.

3. Declare all non-token offers (valued at $50 or more) of gifts, benefits and hospitality (whether accepted or declined) on their organisation’s register, and seek written approval from their manager or organisational delegate to accept any non-token offer.

4. Refuse bribes or inducements and report inducements and bribery attempts to the head of the public sector organisation or their delegate (who should report any criminal or corrupt conduct to Victoria Police or the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission).

Public officials providing gifts, benefits and hospitality:

5. 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.

6. Ensure that any costs are proportionate to the benefits obtained for the State, and would be considered reasonable in terms of community expectations.

7. 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 sector organisations:

8. Establish, implement and review organisational policies and processes for the effective management of gifts, benefits and hospitality that comprehensively address these minimum accountabilities.

9. 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.

10. Communicate and make clear within the organisation 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.

11. 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 organisation’s policy position. This must take into consideration any whole of Victorian Government supplier codes of conduct.

12. Report at least annually to the organisation’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 organisation’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.

13. Publish the organisation’s gifts, benefits and hospitality policy and register on the organisation’s public website (applies only to organisations with an established website). The published register should cover the current and the previous financial year.

Executives have a responsibility to record on the Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Register any:

  • 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.

Organisations must publish their gifts, benefits and hospitality policy and register. The register should cover the current and previous financial year.

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 must not, for a period of 12 months after they cease their employment, engage in lobbying activities relating to any matter with which they had official dealing in their last 12 months of employment.

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 Executive Employment Contract

The terms and conditions of an executive’s employment are set out in the standard executive employment contract. The employment contract puts into writing the expectations of both parties. The standard executive employment contract can be downloaded from the VPSC website.

The standard contract is compulsory for all executive employment in the VPS. The contract template incorporates all the required government executive employment policies and ensures a consistent approach to executive employment across the public service.

Schedules appended to the standard executive employment contract set out the position, duties, location, and remuneration package that are specific to an executive.

Note:

  • Sections 25 and 26 of the PAA provides that an executive will be employed on an employment contract.
  • The employment contract is signed by the employer and executive.
  • The term of an employment contract cannot exceed five years. Subsequent employment contracts may be entered into.
  • A decision on the renewal of an employment contract must be made no later than four months of expiry. Where a contract is for one year or less, discussions should occur at least three months prior to its expiry and a decision made before two months of expiry.
  • There is not limit to the number of times an employer and an executive can renew a contract.

3.6 Work/Life Balance

The Victorian Government supports a balance between work and family for all Victorians. The Victorian public service leads the way by offering the advantages of balancing work, family commitments and life activities. Executives are 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/career aspirations.

This section is pertinent to executives as it presents the various benefits available in public service employment that go beyond simply financial rewards. Some benefits are as follows.

3.6.1. Flexible Working Arrangements

In September 2016, the Victorian Secretaries Board committed to ‘All Roles Flex’, a recommendation that provides for mainstream implementation of flexible working arrangements across the VPS.

Processes will differ from agency to agency, 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. The VPSC resource on Mainstreaming Flexibility Across the VPS provides more information on how to implement work/life balance for executives and their employees.

3.6.2. Support Programs

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. The executive can talk with an EAP advisor for a total of up to five hours, which can be over a number of sessions. These sessions are funded by the employer.

If an executive decides to access the EAP, their details are not passed on to anyone in their agency or human resources unit.

3.6.3. Professional Development – Victorian Leadership Academy

Established by the Victorian Secretaries Board and part of the VPSC, the Victorian Leadership Academy (VLA) offers a tailored development program to lift the capability of Victorian Public Service leaders.

Through the VLA, executives reflect on their experience and development, gain insights into their individual strengths and vulnerabilities and plan their next development goals. Participants have access to other VLA coordinated development opportunities.

Opportunities are experiential and founded on global best practice and contemporary adult learning approaches. Public sector values, priorities and challenges sit at the heart of all development.

More information is available on the VLA section of the VPSC website.

Other public sector-focused leadership development

Executives can access opportunities to undertake intensive study focused on leadership in the public service. 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.

Each department or agency has their own approach to leadership development and executives should contact their employer or human resources unit directly.

A leave of absence may be granted to pursue study or for research.

3.6.4. Diverse and inclusive culture

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

In July 2017, the VPSC launched Barring Djinang, the new Aboriginal employment strategy for the public sector. Barring Djinang has a 2 per cent Aboriginal representation target across the VPS. The strategy is designed to enhance attraction, recruitment, retention and career development of Aboriginal staff members across the Victorian public sector, who are currently under-represented at executive levels.

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

3.6.5. 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).

Refer to the Code of Conduct for guidance.

3.6.6. Health and Wellbeing

Good health and wellbeing is an important aspect of achieving work/life balance. In recognition of this, the public service offers discounted corporate rates for health insurance.

Also as part of their employment contract, Executives are offered medical checks. Check with your agency’s human resources unit for details of how to access the medical check.