From 2 April 2018 the Local Government (General) Regulations 2013 will be amended by the Local Government (General) (Employee Code of Conduct) Variation Regulations 2018. The amendments provide for a new Code of Conduct for Council Employees.
Regulation 8A of the General Regulations will, from that date, provide “For the purposes of section 110 of the Act the Code of Conduct for Council Employees set out in Schedule 2A is prescribed.” Accordingly, from 2 April the current Code of Conduct for Council Employees published by the Minister in the Gazette on 20 February 2014 (as amended) will no longer apply.
Accordingly, the clauses that currently deal with employee general behaviour, responsibilities and relationships within council will, instead, fall to be addressed under principles of employment law and other applicable legislative provisions. These matters will, therefore, largely fall to be managed in accordance with the council’s disciplinary processes. However, it is not to be overlooked that public officers must continue to be mindful of their obligations as set out in the ICAC’s Directions and Guidelines.
The new Code prescribed within Schedule 2A of the General Regulations deals solely and exclusively with gifts and benefits. In summary:
- a Council employee may not seek or receive a gift or benefit that is, or could reasonably be taken to be, intended or likely to create a sense of obligation on the part of the employee to a person or influence the employee in the performance or discharge of their functions or duties. This is not dissimilar to the current obligation on Council employees;
- an employee must provide details of any gift or benefit of an amount greater than $50 (being the amount currently determined by the Minister by notice in the Gazette) to the CEO;
- it is important to note that a gift or benefit received by a person related to an employee (same definition as set out in Schedule 3 to the LG Act) is to be treated as a gift or benefit received by the employee;
- the CEO must maintain a register of gifts and benefits received by employees. The register is a public document available for inspection and must be published on a website determined by the CEO; and
- the register is not required to include information that is available in another register published by or available for inspection at the Council. Further, the register may include information by reference to another register or document published by or available for inspection at the Council.
A complaint alleging contravention or failure to comply with this Code is required to be dealt with in accordance with a policy prepared and maintained by the Council. The policy must nominate a person or persons to receive complaints. However, a complaint against the CEO must be given to the Principal Member of the Council. This complaints procedure is not dissimilar to that which presently exists under the current Code.