All staff, including executive management, Board and Risk and Audit Committee members are required to comply with the WorkCover Code of Conduct. The Code represents a broad framework of ethical conduct that all WorkCover people have an obligation to uphold. It also provides the basis for disciplinary action for those who fail to meet their obligations. The standards of conduct in the Code are based on the four ethics principles contained in the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 (Qld).
The purpose of this Code of Conduct (the Code) is to provide you with a clear understanding of the standard of conduct expected when performing your duties as an employee of a Government entity.
The Code places an obligation on all employees to take responsibility for their own conduct. To achieve this, all employees of either WorkCover Employing Office or WorkCover Queensland are expected to familiarise themselves with and act in accordance with this Code.
Framework for ethical conduct
The Code does not attempt to provide an exhaustive list of what to do in all situations, instead the Code represents a broad framework of ethical conduct that you have an obligation to uphold.
The Code also provides the basis for disciplinary action for those who fail to meet their obligations.
The standards of conduct in the Code are based on the four ethics principles contained in the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 (Qld). The ethics principles which are considered essential for the performance of public administration in Queensland are:
- integrity and impartiality
- promoting the public good
- commitment to the system of government
- accountability and transparency.
The Code was developed in consultation with employees and those organisations that represent their interests. Through this consultative approach, a Code of Conduct was developed to reflect the operational needs of WorkCover Employing Office and WorkCover Queensland and provides a basis for high standards of ethical conduct in the way you do your work.
Application of the Code
The Code applies to all employees whether they are permanent, temporary (full-time or part-time), agency supplied temporary staff, casual or a contractor.
The Code applies to WorkCover Queensland or WorkCover Employing Office or WorkCover Queensland and WorkCover Employing Office, each of which hereinafter is referred to as WorkCover.
In applying the Code you are to consider both the 'spirit' and 'content' of the Code. If you are in any doubt as to the meaning of the Code or its application in any given situation, you should seek advice from your manager.
As an employee of WorkCover and, therefore, an employee of a government entity, you have a responsibility to conduct yourself in a manner that will not undermine public confidence in the integrity of WorkCover.
Employees who have human or financial resource management accountabilities (i.e. managers or team leaders) have the responsibility of monitoring the use of WorkCover resources and the performance of employees. Managers are also responsible for taking the appropriate action where an employee breaches the Code of Conduct.
In every aspect of your work with WorkCover you are obliged to act in the public interest. Acting in the public interest means faithfully and impartially implementing legislation and the policy intentions of the elected Government and the WorkCover Board.
Your obligation under the Code
The Code sets out your obligations in relation to each of the four ethics principles. The practical application of each principle involves you in meeting an obligation to apply a standard of conduct which is wholly consistent with the 'spirit' and 'intent' of the principle. It is important to remember that there may be situations where you will be called upon to demonstrate sound judgement in the application of the Code to ensure the public interest is met.
Principle 1: Integrity and impartiality
A WorkCover employee should seek to promote public confidence in the integrity of the public sector and WorkCover and should:
- be committed to the highest ethical standard;
- accept the value their duty to provide advice which is objective, independent, apolitical and impartial;
- show respect towards all persons, including employees, clients and the general public;
- acknowledge the primacy of the public interest and undertake that any conflict of interest issue will be resolved or appropriately managed in favour of the public interest; and;
- be committed to honest, fair and respectful engagement with the community.
Required standards of conduct
1.1 Commit to the highest ethical standards
As WorkCover employees we are required to ensure that our conduct meets the highest ethical standards when we are fulfilling our responsibilities. We will:
- ensure any advice that we provide is objective, independent, apolitical and impartial;
- ensure our decision making is ethical;
- engage with the community in a manner that is consultative, respectful and fair; and;
- meet our obligations to report suspected wrongdoing, including conduct not consistent with this code.
1.2 Manage conflicts of interest
A conflict of interest involves a conflict between our duty, as WorkCover employees, to serve the public interest and our personal interests. The conflict may arise from a range of factors including our personal relationships, our employment outside WorkCover, our membership of special interest groups, or our ownership of shares, companies, or property. As WorkCover employees we may also experience conflicts of interest between our public service ethics and our professional codes of ethics (for example as health care professionals or as lawyers), or with our personal beliefs or opinions.
Having a conflict of interest is not unusual and it is not wrongdoing in itself. However failing to disclose and manage the conflict appropriately is likely to be wrongdoing. As WorkCover employees we are committed to demonstrating our impartiality and integrity in fulfilling our responsibilities and as such we will:
- always disclose a personal interest that could, now or in the future, be seen as influencing the performance of our duties;
- actively participate in developing and implementing resolution strategies for any conflict of interest; and;
- ensure that any conflict of interest is resolved in the public interest.
1.3 Contribute to public discussion in an appropriate manner
Commenting on WorkCover policy is a matter for the Board, the CEO and Government Ministers, not employees. Unless prior authorisation has been given, we will not comment to the media on WorkCover policy. Where providing factual information to the public on WorkCover policy is a part of our official duties and responsibilities, we will ensure that information is appropriately authorised, and that we properly represent WorkCover policy and administration in its intended manner and spirit. Like any other citizen, we have the right to contribute to public discussions on community and social issues in our private capacity. In doing so, we will:
- take reasonable steps to ensure that any comment we make will be understood as representing our personal views, not those of WorkCover and/or the government;
- maintain the confidentiality of information we have access to due to our roles, that is not publicly available; and;
- be aware that personal comments about a public issue may compromise our capacity to perform the duties of our role in an independent, unbiased manner.
1.4 Manage participation in external organisations
Our work as a WorkCover employee does not remove our right to be active privately in a political party, professional organisation or trade union. As a member of a political party, however, we are aware that participating in activities in the public arena, where we may be identified as a WorkCover employee, can give rise to a perception of conflict of interest (see section 1.2). Where this situation arises, we will declare and manage our activities in accordance with our WorkCover's policies. If we are elected as workplace representatives or officials of a trade union or professional association, we are not required to seek permission from our workplace before speaking publicly in that capacity, and we will make it clear that our comments are made only on behalf of that organisation. In all instances, we will comply with the appropriate laws of privacy, confidentiality and information management.
1.5 Demonstrate a high standard of workplace behaviour and personal conduct
We have a responsibility to always conduct and present ourselves in a professional manner, and demonstrate respect for all persons, whether fellow employees, clients or members of the public. We will:
- treat co-workers, clients and members of the public with courtesy and respect, be appropriate in our relationships with them, and recognise that others have the right to hold views which may differ from our own;
- ensure our conduct reflects our commitment to a workplace that is inclusive and free from harassment;
- ensure our fitness for duty, and the safety, health and welfare of ourselves and others in the workplace, whether co-workers or clients;
- ensure our private conduct maintains the integrity of WorkCover and our ability to perform our duties; and;
- comply with legislative and/or policy obligations to report employee criminal charges and convictions.
Principle 2: Promoting the public good
WorkCover employees should recognise that we are mechanisms of the public sector through which elected representatives deliver programs and services for the benefit of the people of Queensland, public service agencies, public service authorities and public service officials. Specifically this role is as the workers' compensation insurer for the workers of Queensland. Through this role, we accept and value our duty to:
- be responsive to both the requirements of the WorkCover board, the government and to the public interest;
- manage public resources effectively, efficiently and economically;
- achieve excellence in service delivery;
- achieve enhanced integration of services to better service clients.
Required standards of conduct
2.1 Commit to excellence in service delivery
WorkCover is entrusted with being the Queensland workers' compensation insurer. We have a responsibility to:
- deliver services fairly, courteously, effectively, and ensure we use resources efficiently and economically;
- assist all members of the community, particularly people with disabilities, those who speak languages other than English, and those who may find it difficult
- to access government services and;
- treat complaints from clients and the community seriously and respond to constructive feedback as an opportunity for improvement.
2.2 Ensure appropriate community engagement
Community participation is crucial in WorkCover's service delivery. We have a responsibility, where appropriate and in accordance with our official duties, to:
- listen and respond to issues and concerns raised by individuals or communities;
- consult with the public to assist with operations; and;
- assist in raising community awareness about WorkCover's role and policies.
2.3 Work as an integrated service
In order to deliver excellence in customer service, we will work together to address complex issues and provide integrated services to the community. We have a responsibility, where appropriate and in accordance with our official duties, to:
- share information across Queensland public service agencies, where permitted by law, to enhance the seamless delivery of services;
- share common-use assets, accommodation, and infrastructure within Queensland public service agencies to generate economies and efficiencies; and;
- work cohesively at the local, regional, state and national levels to provide integrated services.
Principle 3: Commitment to the system of government
A WorkCover employee should recognise that we have a duty to uphold the system of government and the laws of the state, Commonwealth and local government, public sector agencies, public sector entities and public officers and:
- accept and value their duty to uphold the system of government and the laws of the State, the Commonwealth and local government;
- are committed to effecting official WorkCover priorities, policies and decisions professionally and impartially; and;
- accept and value their duty to operate within the WorkCover framework.
Required standards of conduct
3.1 Commit to our roles in public sector
Our role is to undertake our duties, and to give effect to the policies of WorkCover and the elected government. We will:
- accept that the elected government and the board have the right to determine policy and priorities;
- be responsive to those policies and priorities and then to implement them professionally and impartially;
- comply with the laws of State, Australian and local governments;
- comply with all relevant awards, certified agreements, subsidiary agreements, directives, whole-of-government policies and standards; and;
- adhere to WorkCover's policies, organisational values and organisational documents.
3.2 Maintain appropriate relationships with ministerial staff
Ministerial advisors and the public service share a common commitment to serving the government of the day. Central to good government, and the ability to carry out the designated role of the public service, are positive and productive interactions between the administrative and political arms of government. If providing advice to Ministers is a part of our role, we will ensure our interactions are positive and productive when engaging with ministerial staff. Ministerial staff are not empowered to direct public service employees in their own right. If this occurs, we will bring this to the attention of our agency's senior management.
3.3 Ensure proper communication with members of parliament
We have the right to communicate directly with a Member of Parliament on any issue affecting us as a private citizen. In communicating with Members as private citizens, we will maintain the confidentiality of information that is not publicly available, and we have access to due to our roles.
Principle 4: Accountability and transparency
WorkCover employees should recognise that public trust in public office requires high standards of public administration, public service agencies, public sector entities and public officials:
- are committed to exercising proper diligence, care and attention;
- are committed to using public resources in an effective and accountable way;
- are committed to managing information as openly as practicable within the legal framework;
- value and seek to achieve high standards of public administration;
- value and seek to innovate and continuously improve performance; and;
- value and seek to operate within a framework of mutual obligation and shared responsibility between public service agencies, public sector entities an public office.
Required standards of conduct
4.1 Ensure diligence in public administration
We have an obligation to seek to achieve high standards of public administration and perform our duties to the best of our abilities. We will:
- apply due care in our work, and provide accurate and impartial advice to all clients whether members of the public, public service agencies, or any level of government;
- treat all people equitably and consistently, and demonstrate the principles of procedural fairness and natural justice when making decisions;
- exercise our lawful powers and authority with care and for the purpose for which these were granted; and;
- comply with all reasonable and lawful instructions, whether or not we personally agree with a given policy direction.
4.2 Ensure transparency in our business dealings
In order to ensure all WorkCover dealings with private industry are conducted with the highest level of integrity we will ensure:
- our business meetings with persons who were formerly Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries or senior government representatives are not on matters those persons had official dealings with in their recent previous employment in accordance with government policy;
- any engagement we have with lobbyists is properly recorded; and;
- we manage gifts, benefits or hospitality in accordance with WorkCover policies.
4.3 Ensure appropriate use of official resources, public property and facilities
We are accountable for all resources that we use in the course of our duties. We will:
- be economical, and avoid waste and extravagance in the use of public resources for proper purposes;
- use any public resource in accordance with official policies;
- purchase, manage and care for public resources in accordance with official policies; and;
- responsibly utilise human assets such as corporate knowledge and intellectual property, as public resources.
4.4 Ensure appropriate use and disclosure of official information
The public has a right to know the information that is created and used by the government on their behalf. This right is balanced by necessary protections for certain information, including personal information. Information privacy legislation protects against the misuse of personal information and we have an obligation to ensure the lawful collection and handling of personal information. In addition, we will:
- treat official information with care and use it only for the purpose for which it was collected or authorised;
- store official information securely, and limit access to those persons requiring it for legitimate purposes; and;
- not use confidential or privileged information to further personal interests.
We will continue to respect the confidentiality of official information when we leave public service employment.
4.5 Commit to innovation and continuous performance improvement
The capacity of the WorkCover to deliver workers' compensation insurance services to the community depends on an innovative and creative workforce, and a commitment to continuously improve the performance of our agency and ourselves. We each have a responsibility, having regard to our own roles, to:
- maintain and develop our professional skills and knowledge;
- in consultation with our managers, take reasonable steps to identify and apply for development opportunities relevant to our current roles and responsibilities;
- actively participate in employee performance management processes, including induction, performance planning and development; and;
- actively contribute to developing and improving business planning and processes, including innovative ways of delivering services.
A guide for ethical decision making
The guide below gives some things to consider in light of your obligations under the Code. It will not make the decision for you, but it will help you to analyse all the relevant facts and circumstances of a situation to reach a decision.
Step 1. Identify and assess the situation
- What do you want to do?
- What are the facts and circumstances of the situation?
- Does it break the rules, of the law, or is it inconsistent with Government policy?
- Is this consistent with your obligations under the Code?
- What ethical principle or principles does it relate to and why?
- Who is affected and are peoples' entitlements or obligations involved?
Step 2. Look at the situation from a government entity standpoint
- What is your duty as an employee of a government entity?
- What legislation, policies, procedures or guidelines are relevant?
- With whom should you consult?
Step 3. Would your actions or decisions withstand public scrutiny?
- Would a reasonable person consider that you were in a position to improperly use your powers or position?
- Would the public perceive your action or decision as honest and impartial?
- Is there a conflict of interest?
Step 4. Identify and consider the options
- Get advice from your manager or specialists within WorkCover.
- What are the options and what are the consequences that would result from each option?
- What are the costs and long-term consequences, if any?
- Are the options and consequences you have identified consistent with the four ethics principles and obligations?
- How would the public view a particular option?
Step 5. Choose your course of action
Make sure the course of action you have chosen:
- is within your position's authority and delegation and is consistent with the relevant legislation, policies and procedures, including this Code
- is procedurally fair and can be justified to your manager, the Executive Officer, the Board, the Minister, Parliament and the public
- is documented, if it is likely that a person will require a statement of reasons
- supports WorkCover's vision, values and goals
- involves the specialists within WorkCover, where appropriate.
Where to from here?
If, after reading this Code you are unsure about your obligation in general or in relation to a specific situation, you should discuss this with your manager.
If you have concerns about approaching your direct manager, you should contact the next senior person in your area. Where this is not possible or practical, you should make contact with Human Resources who will be able to provide you with guidance and advice on the appropriate steps to follow to resolve your concerns.