Professional conduct

The department is committed to a workplace that provides dignity and respect.

More information on professional conduct

The Department collects and stores a lot of confidential information. Unauthorised disclosures may cause people harm, or give an individual or agency an improper advantage. The Department's integrity and credibility may be damaged if it cannot keep information secure.

As a departmental employee, you must only use official information for the work-related purpose it was intended.
Unless authorised to do so by legislation, you must not disclose or use any confidential information without appropriate approval.

You must make sure that confidential information, in any form, cannot be accessed by unauthorised people. Sensitive information should only be provided to people, either within or outside the Department, who are authorised to have access to it.

You should always exercise caution and sound judgment in discussing other people's personal information with other departmental employees. Normally information should be limited to those who need to know in order to conduct their duties, or to those who can assist us in carrying out our work because of their expertise.

Former departmental employees must not be given access to confidential information.

Information concerning privacy is available on the Department's Legal Services intranet site.

Examples of inappropriate release of confidential information might include:

  • an employee providing information to another department or agency involved in an investigation or complaint without permission from their manager or where legally compelled to do so
  • an employee supplying confidential information to a company tendering for Government work
  • employees accessing their colleagues' or students' contact details or workplace records inappropriately.

Personal views or private interests can, or have the potential to, influence a person's capacity to perform their duties and in turn compromise their integrity and that of the Department.

As a departmental employee, you must be objective and impartial, and be seen to be so. A conflict of interests can involve:

  • pecuniary interests i.e. financial gain or loss or other material benefits
  • non-pecuniary interests i.e. favours, personal relationships and associations.

It may not only be about your own interests. It may include:

  • the interests of members of your immediate family or relatives (where these interests are known)
  • the interests of your own business partners or associates, or those of your workplace
  • the interests of your friends.

Hostility as well as friendship can also give rise to actual or perceived conflicts of interests.

A conflict exists when a reasonably minded and informed person would form that view.

When faced with a situation in which conflict of interests may be present, you should:

  • assess the situation and the surrounding circumstances that could affect any decisions or actions you may take in the matter (Ask yourself "What is my public duty?" and "What is my personal interest?")
  • identify whether any conflicts of interests exist ("Could my personal interest influence my performance of the public duty?")
  • determine the type of conflict of interests ("Is it actual, perceived or potential?" "Is it pecuniary or non-pecuniary?"), and
  • report any conflict to your manager.

A key issue to consider in determining whether conflict of interests exists is what the perceptions of others might be.
Questions you might ask yourself would be:

  • What assessment would a reasonable or fair-minded member of the public make of the circumstances?
  • Could my involvement in this matter cast doubt on my integrity or on the Department's integrity?

You should also report situations where a superior or colleague who has an identified conflict is, or may be perceived as, unduly influencing your decision.

As a manager or supervisor, you are required to develop appropriate management strategies to deal with any conflicts of interests and document your decisions and actions.

Examples of Conflicts of Interests situations include:

  • an employee taking part in the evaluation and selection of textbooks, reference books or learning materials which were written or edited by a relative or close friend, or published by a company in which they have a financial interest
  • an employee taking part in the selection and appointment of a supplier or contractor who is a relative or a close friend, or owns a company in which they have a financial/business interest
  • an employee supervising a relative or a close friend and determining their promotions or pay increases
  • a teacher tutoring or coaching students from their school or workplace in return for payment
  • a teacher referring their students to attend private tutorial sessions in which they have, or a relative or a close friend has, a financial/business interest.

Refer to the Conflict of Interests Factsheet (pdf) for more detail.

The Department is committed to providing a productive, safe and healthy workplace. You are responsible for ensuring your capacity to perform your duties is not impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs, and that the use of such substances does not put at risk you or any other person's health and safety.

As a departmental employee, you must:

  • not attend work under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or non-prescribed and/or restricted substances
  • not endanger your own safety or the safety of any other person in the workplace by consuming alcohol, illegal drugs or non-prescribed and/or restricted substances
  • notify your supervisor if you are aware that your work performance or conduct could be adversely affected as a result of the effect of a prescribed drug
  • take action to resolve any alcohol or other drug-related problems that you have (remember that you have access to counselling support from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and
  • consult with your supervisor if you are concerned about working with other employees who may be affected by drugs or alcohol.

Drugs

As a departmental employee, you must not:

  • give students or other employees illegal drugs or restricted substances, or encourage or condone their use
  • supply or administer prescription or non-prescription drugs to students unless following the directions set down in the Administering Prescribed Medication at School procedures (pdf).
  • have illegal drugs in your possession while at work. Any illegal drugs found on departmental property or in the possession of any person on departmental property will be reported to the Police

Managers and principals must report incidents involving illegal drug use to the Police or to the Incident Report and Support hotline on 1800 811 523.

Alcohol

Being under the influence of alcohol while you are 'on duty' could affect your ability to work safely and efficiently, especially when you have a responsibility to supervise students or work in close proximity to them.

You must not take alcohol to a school or consume it during school hours or at any school function at any time school students are present, including those events conducted outside school premises. A school function is any occasion organised by the school and/or in the school's name, including dances, farewells, excursions, sporting fixtures and fund raising events. (Refer to the Drugs in Schools policy)

The Department is committed to providing a productive, safe and healthy workplace. You are responsible for ensuring your capacity to perform your duties is not impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs, and that the use of such substances does not put at risk you or any other person's health and safety.

Therefore:

  • you must not purchase alcohol for, or give alcohol to, any school student or other person under the age of 18 years
  • you must not encourage or condone the use of alcohol by students of any age during educational activities unless prescribed by the curriculum.

The Community Use of School Facilities Policy and Implementation Procedures (pdf) contain information on the consumption of alcohol on school premises by community groups.

Tobacco

You must not smoke or permit smoking in any departmental buildings, enclosed area or on departmental grounds. This includes all buildings, gardens, sports fields, cars and car parks, other than those clearly defined areas. (Refer to Smoke Free Environment Act 2000).

You must not purchase tobacco or tobacco products for any school student, or give them tobacco or tobacco products.

The Department provides electronic communication facilities for its students and employees for educational or administrative purposes. It reserves the right to monitor and view any data stored or transmitted using the Department's facilities. By its nature, electronic communication is a fast and informal way of communicating. However, once a document or image has been sent there is no way to recall it and it exists forever.

You must, therefore, comply with the Department's Employer Communication Devices Acceptable Use Guidelines (pdf) and:

  • exercise good judgment when using electronic mail, following the principles of ethical behaviour
  • use appropriate language in electronic mail messages
  • be aware that if an issue addressed in an email becomes the subject of a legal dispute, then those emails would be discoverable: that is, the court and all parties to the dispute would be entitled to see them
  • not send messages that are harassing, defamatory, threatening, abusive or obscene
  • not invite students into your personal social network site, if it contains personal information or inappropriate comments or images
  • remember transmission, storage, promotion or display of offensive, defamatory, or harassing material is strictly forbidden
  • report any situations where you become aware of the inappropriate use of electronic communication and social networking sites.

You must never use the Department's networks to view, upload, download or circulate any of the following materials:

  • sexually related or pornographic messages or material
  • violent or hate-related messages or material
  • racist or other offensive messages aimed at a particular group or individual
  • malicious, libelous or slanderous messages or material
  • subversive or other messages or material related to illegal activities.

All students have a right to a safe physical and emotional environment.

As a departmental employee, you are expected to always behave in ways that promote the safety, welfare and well-being of children and young people. You must actively seek to prevent harm to children and young people, and to support those who have been harmed.

While not all employees are required to manage and supervise students, it is important for all departmental employees to understand and observe the Department's child protection policies.

You must not impose physical punishment on a student in the course of your professional duties.

You must not develop a relationship with any student that is, or that can be misinterpreted as having a personal rather than a professional interest in a student.

You must not have a sexual relationship with a school student. It is irrelevant whether the relationship is homosexual or heterosexual, consensual or non-consensual or condoned by parents or caregivers.

As an employee, you must not enter into a romantic or sexual relationship with any student (including any adult student) that you are responsible for teaching, tutoring, advising, assessing, or for whom you provide pastoral or welfare support. To do so raises serious questions of conflict of interests, trust, confidence, dependency, and of equality of treatment. Such relationships may also have a negative impact on the teaching and learning environment for other students and colleagues, and may carry a serious reputational risk for the Department.

Where a personal relationship, such as family relationship or close friendship exists between you and a student, or where there is a pre-existing sexual relationship with an adult student attending the same workplace, you must report the conflict of interest, or any potential conflict, to your supervisor or principal, and it must be managed carefully.

Wherever practical, you should avoid teaching or being involved in educational decisions involving family members or close friends. Where it is not practical to avoid such situations completely, another member of staff should make any significant decisions relating to the student's assessments and have those endorsed by a supervisor.

Your professional relationship may be compromised if you:

  • invite students to join your personal electronic social networking site or accept students' invitations to join theirs
  • attend parties or socialise with students
  • invite a student or students back to your home or attend theirs without an appropriate professional reason and without the consent of their parent or carer
  • transport a school student in your car without prior approval from a supervisor and a parent or carer.

The boundaries of the professional relationship will be breached if you:

  • have a sexual relationship or develop an intimate relationship with a student
  • use sexual innuendo or inappropriate language and/or material with students
  • hold conversations of an intimately personal nature, where you disclose private information about yourself
  • have contact with a student via written or electronic means including email, letters, telephone, text messages or chat lines, without a valid context
  • give students gifts of a personal nature that encourages them to think they have an individual and special relationship with you.

You are reminded of:

  • the law prohibiting sexual relations with a person under the age of consent (16 years)
  • the law prohibiting sexual relations between a teacher and their student under the age of 18 years
  • the law prohibiting child pornography.

Prior to separation

  • As a departmental employee, you must not use your position unfairly to improve your own prospects of future employment. If you allow your work to be improperly influenced by plans for, or offers of, employment outside the Department there is a conflict of interests and your integrity and that of the Department is at risk.
  • You must return any property you have belonging to the Department.

After separation

  • When you cease employment with the Department, you should not use or take advantage of any confidential information obtained in the course of your official duties until it has become publicly available.
  • As a current employee, you must be careful in your dealings with former employees of the Department and make sure that you do not give them, or appear to give them, favourable treatment or access to privileged information.
  • You should report any attempts made by former employees to influence or lobby you about the Department's activities to your supervisor or line manager.

Example of inappropriate conduct would include:

  • A former employee now works for a private registered training organisation, which competes with TAFE NSW. Before leaving the Department, the employee downloaded teaching resources and used them to benefit her new employer.

Example of appropriate conduct would include:

  • A Department manager of a section that employs contractors to supply a service decides to resign and set up his own business to supply the same service to the Department. Clearly, the manager has an unfair advantage over other competitors as he has detailed knowledge of the Department's requirements and tendering processes and established relationships with the Department's current employees who might be involved in awarding the contract. The employee declares the conflict of interests and ensures that any decisions made in relation to the contracting are made together with an independent person.

The Department is committed to a workplace that provides dignity and respect (pdf).

Our daily interaction with others reflects on the Department's reputation. Therefore, all employees are expected to be approachable, courteous and prompt in dealing with other people, including students, other employees (irrespective of their position or seniority) and members of the community.

In dealing with other people, you should be able to accommodate and tolerate different opinions and perspectives, and sort out your disagreements by rational discussion.

Rational discussion presupposes that there is open communication and the freedom to voice another point of view. Such a discussion should not involve verbal abuse or physical intimidation. For example, you may criticise a person's ideas but you should not criticise the person; and you should not verbally abuse, vilify or belittle students or colleagues (including your supervisors) personally or to others.

You must not discriminate against or harass your colleagues, students or members of the public on a number of grounds including; sex, marital status, pregnancy, age, race, ethnic or national origin, physical or intellectual impairment or sexual preference. Such harassment or discrimination may constitute an offence under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. In addition, you must not harass or discriminate on the grounds of political or religious conviction.

Managers and principals must lead by example and must take all necessary steps to ensure that workplaces and classrooms are free from all forms of harassment, bullying and unlawful discrimination, and that their staff are informed of the principles of equal opportunity and anti- discrimination.

If you believe you or anyone else in your workplace is being treated in a discriminatory or harassing manner, it is your obligation to report the behaviour to your supervisor or director. The Department takes reports of discrimination and harassment seriously and will take steps to prevent and correct them. Most incidents can be addressed effectively if reported early.

You must not make unfounded complaints with malicious, frivolous or vexatious intent against another employee or students.

Employees who work with students have a special responsibility in presenting themselves as appropriate role models for those students. Modelling effective leadership and respect in your interactions with students can have a profoundly positive influence on a student's personal and social development.

Similarly, it is important for you to treat your colleagues with respect. Rude or insulting behaviour, including verbal and non-verbal aggression, abusive, threatening or derogatory language and physical abuse or intimidation towards other employees is unacceptable.

You must not use information and communication technologies, such as email, mobile phones, text or instant messaging and websites to engage in behaviour that could reasonably be considered to have a negative impact on another person, cause them harm, or make them feel unsafe.

Policies that set this standard are:

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