Government agencies around Australia are standing up to support the campaign to end violence against women today for White Ribbon Day.
ALL THINGS P: The federal government wants to know which open data would be most useful to business, researc
We recently moved our readers to a new system. You may need to reset your password here to login.
Not a member ? Join here for free.
Forgot your password?
Home Features Nebulous APS values and skyrocketing breaches a worrying slippery slope
Text size :
DEPARTMENTSAustralian Public Service Commission, Australian Tax Office
TAGS Australian public service, Australian Public Service Commission, Australian Tax Office, Dismissal, Employment, Fair Work Australia, Fair Work Commission, Integrity
The expansive potential breadth of the APS values is a troubling slippery slope, especially in light of recent APSC data showing a sharp rise in breaches. Employment law director John Wilson explains his concerns:
According to the Australian Public Service Commission’s latest State of the Service Report, the most common form of suspected misconduct by Commonwealth public servants was a failure to uphold APS values and employment principles and the integrity and good reputation of the service. In 2013-14, 441 employees were investigated for suspected breaches of this code of conduct section, a 43% increase on the previous reporting period. The vague and aspirational nature of many values and employment principles makes this statistic a cause for concern.
Section 13 of the Public Service Act 1999 establishes the APS code of conduct, mandating that public servants must do everything from acting with care and diligence to complying with lawful and reasonable directions. Subsection 11(a) relevantly requires that “an APS employee must at all times behave in a way that upholds the APS values and APS employment principles.” These values include acting ethically, impartially and respectfully, while the employment principles dictate effective performance, meritorious promotion and diverse workplaces.
These values and employment principles are particularly significant because, unlike much of section 13, they are not limited by a necessary “connection with employment” but instead must be observed “at all times”. If this phrase were to be given a strictly literal interpretation, it would require public servants to act in accordance with such strictures 24 hours per day, seven days per week and 365 days per year.
” … APS values and employment principles are nebulous and appear difficult to enforce directly against individuals.”
The scope of these provisions was considered, albeit not conclusively, in the recent Fair Work Commission decision of Cooper v Australian Tax Office. There, the applicant’s employment had been terminated for failing to uphold the (since amended) value 10(1)(d): “that the APS has the highest ethical standards”, and remedy was sought under the Fair Work Act 2009′s unfair dismissal protections. Cooper had been convicted of “indecency on a person who was under 16 years-of-age outside of Australia”, a conviction which the ATO submitted was in conflict with the “ethical standards and good reputation of the APS.”
Receive unlimited access, get all the latest public sector news and features, plus The Juice, our daily news update sent direct to your inbox.
The Mandarin is where Australia's public sector leaders discuss their work and the issues faced within modern bureaucracy. Join today to discover the latest in public administration thinking and news from our dedicated reporters, current and former agency heads and senior executives.
John Wilson is the managing legal director of Bradley Allen Love in Canberra and an accredited specialist in industrial relations and employment law. He has twice appeared on the Best Lawyers list, and has an extensive public sector employment practice.
Read Related Content
Federal public servants will not be disadvantaged by a change to streamline promotion reviews, the merit protection commissioner says. Review panels will now sidestep one of the more adversarial aspects of a declined promotion.
The APS Commission has advised that ComSuper staff who have been forced to work for Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation will retain their APS employment rights for three years. A few months back, the commissioner argued against the special dispensation in a Senate committee.