Employee responsibility

Explains an employee's legal and moral duty to apply their knowledge and the department's policies and procedures in ways which will benefit students, the department and the wider community.

More about employee responsibility

The Department is committed to supporting employees who report concerns about the conduct of their colleagues. Such conduct includes corrupt conduct, maladministration and serious and substantial waste.

You can do this by reporting these matters to your manager, your Director or directly to the Employee Performance and Conduct Directorate.

All employees are required by law to inform the Department's Secretary if they are charged with or convicted of a serious offence (those punishable by 12 months or more in gaol).

If you become aware of a serious crime committed by another person, you are required to report it to the police.

As a departmental employee, you must report possible 'risk of harm' to children or young persons to your supervisor or principal. They must in turn determine whether a report to the Department of Community Services is required. For guidance on reporting, refer to the Department's policy Child protection: Responding to and reporting to students at risk of harm.

You must also report your concerns about the inappropriate actions of any other employee that involves children or young people to your supervisor or principal, or directly to the Employee Performance and Conduct Directorate. This Directorate will deal with the information in line with the policy Child protection: Allegations against Employees.

All employees are required to report suspected instances of suspected corrupt conduct, maladministration or serious and substantial waste to a nominated Disclosure Officer. Employees reporting matters of suspected corrupt conduct, maladministration or serious and substantial waste may be subject to the protections offered by the Public Disclosures Act 2013.

The Department's Public Interest Disclosures Management Guidelines explains this in more detail. If you are aware that such a report has been made, it is essential that you do not take detrimental action against the complainant in reprisal for reporting it. This includes any action that could reasonably be perceived to be detrimental action in reprisal.

Anyone who takes detrimental action against an employee in reprisal for having made a Protected Disclosure is committing a criminal offence, which could result in imprisonment if convicted. Detrimental action will also be treated as serious misconduct by the Department and would be dealt with as a disciplinary matter, which could lead to dismissal.

A duty of care is the legal obligation to provide reasonable care while performing any acts or making any omissions that could foreseeably harm others.

  • The duty encompasses a wide range of matters, including (but not limited to) -
  • the provision of adequate supervision
  • ensuring grounds, premises and equipment are safe for students use
  • implementing strategies to prevent bullying from occurring in school, and
  • providing medical assistance (if competent to do so), or seeking assistance from a medically trained person to aid a student who is injured or becomes sick at school.

As a departmental employee, you have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety and welfare of the departmental school students in your charge. That duty is to take all reasonable action to protect students from risks of harm that can be reasonably predicted. For example, risks from known hazards and from foreseeable risk situations against which preventative measures can be taken. The standard of care that is required, for example the degree of supervision, needs to be commensurate with the students' maturity and ability.

Duty of care to students applies during all activities and functions conducted or arranged by schools where students are in the care of employees. The risks associated with any activity need to be assessed and managed before the activity is undertaken.

You also have a duty to ensure your safety and that of others in your work.

Considerations of safety relate to both physical and psychological wellbeing of individuals.

The recruitment of employees in the Department is conducted in line with the relevant legislation, industrial instruments, policies and procedures.

Recruitment and staff selection processes must meet the principles and the standards of merit selection. It must be ethical, fair and effective.

These are outlined in the Best Practice Guide - Merit selection and filling of vacancies (pdf).

In order to avoid any possible accusation of bias, you must not be involved in any appointment, or any other decisions relating to discipline, promotion or pay and conditions for any employee, or prospective employee, to whom you are related, or with whom you have a close personal or business relationship.

Selection panel members need to declare to the panel any prior personal knowledge or interest in any of the applicants. This is to ensure that any conflicts of interest, which might unduly influence that person in the panel's deliberations is carefully managed. Prior knowledge of the applicant does not necessarily amount to a conflict of interests or exclude participation in the selection process.

Where the selection panel considers a conflict of interests could prejudice the outcome of the process, it must be resolved or managed according to the conflict of interests' provisions in section 12 of these procedures. This includes the requirement to document any perceived or actual conflict and the requirement of the panel member to disclose to the convenor or other person appointing them to the panel if they have a conflict of interests arising from the work of the panel.

A record serves an essential administrative, legal and historical purpose.

Records may be class rolls, student assessment records, emails, electronic documents, digital image and audio recordings, correspondence, files, forms, plans, drawings, notes, photographs and films.

All employees have a responsibility:

  • to create and maintain full, accurate and honest records of their activities, decisions and other business transactions, and
  • to capture or store records in the Department's records systems in line with the Department's Records Management Program and the State Records Act 1998.

You must not destroy records without appropriate authority.

Managers have a responsibility to ensure that the employees reporting to them comply with their records management obligations.

Employees responsible for assessing and recording marks for students' work must do so accurately, fairly and in a manner that is consistent with relevant policy and the requirements of the particular school, institute or educational facility.

Employees must maintain the confidentiality of all official information and documents which are not publicly available or which have not been published.

As an employee, you may be offered a gift or benefit as an act of gratitude. There are some circumstances when to refuse a gift would be perceived as rude, insulting or hurtful.

You are expected to exercise sound judgment when deciding whether to accept a gift or benefit. It is important that the acceptance of a gift does not influence or is not seen to influence your decision-making.

You must never ask for money, gifts or benefits and you must never accept any offer of money, gifts or benefits. To do so may amount to bribery, which is a crime.

Bribery is soliciting, receiving or offering any undue reward to or by a person to influence the way that a person acts. A reward can encompass anything of value and is not limited to money or tangible goods. The provision of services may amount to a reward.

If you are offered a bribe (i.e. anything given in order to persuade you to act improperly), you must refuse it, explain why it is not appropriate, and immediately report the matter to a senior line manager. Any attempt to bribe an employee or the acceptance of a bribe by an employee, is an act of corrupt conduct and must be reported to the Employee Performance and Conduct Directorate.

Accepting gifts and other benefits has the potential to compromise your position by creating a sense of obligation and undermining your impartiality. It may also affect the reputation of the Department and its officers. You must not create the impression that any person or organisation is influencing the Department or the decisions of any of its employees.

Always consider the value and purpose of a gift or benefit before making any decision about accepting it. A gift that is more than nominal value ($50) must not become personal property. You should either politely refuse it or advise the contributor that you will accept it on behalf of your school or workplace.

When such a gift is accepted, you must advise your manager or Principal. They will determine how it should be treated and make a record of its receipt. Depending on the nature and value of the gift, it may be appropriate to record the gift in the asset register as a donation or other such record established for that purpose.

Sometimes employees might, in the course of their work, win a prize of significant monetary value e.g. a computer, from another organisation. Prizes are usually considered the property of The Department. If you win a prize you must advise your principal or manager who will determine how the prize should be treated and recorded.


It would be acceptable to receive gifts in the following situations:

  • if, after giving a presentation at a meeting or seminar, you are presented with a small gift as thanks for your time and effort
  • when parents or students arrive with a small gift for a teacher at the end of the school year
  • a parent gives $1000 dollars to the Principal, specifically requesting that the money be donated to the school library for the purchase of audio-books because her son has poor vision.

It would not be acceptable to receive gifts or benefits in the following situations:

  • a company wanting to do business with the Department offers an employee two tickets to the VIP box at the football final
  • a parent gives the school $1000 dollars for sporting equipment on condition that her son is chosen for the cricket team
  • at the end of Term 2, a parent gives a teacher an envelope containing $150 and says "I hope this will help you enjoy your holiday. Have a dinner on me."
  • a parent gives a teacher an obviously expensive gift e.g. an item of jewellery.

It is permissible for employees to undertake paid secondary work within or outside the Department, subject to Private and Secondary Employment Policy and guidelines. However, you must recognise that your primary commitment is to your principal employment in the Department. Engaging in other employment; for example, part-time university lecturing or tutoring, or working as a consultant, may have the potential to compromise or be seen to compromise your duties as a departmental employee.

If you are employed in a permanent full-time or temporary full-time position, you must seek approval from your manager prior to engaging in any secondary employment.

You can only commence the private or secondary employment once you have received approval. Approval must be obtained annually.

Permanent part-time and temporary part-time employees, casual employees, and temporary SAS staff (employed for less than 10 weeks) are not required to gain approval for other employment, providing the other paid work is not undertaken during the period that the person is employed to discharge duties for the Department.

However, these employees must ensure that their responsibility to the Department is not adversely affected and that no conflicts of interests arise.

In cases where a real or perceived conflict of interests exists, the employee must advise their immediate supervisor. The supervisor must then assess the manageability of the conflict of interests and/or review the continuation of the private or secondary employment. Further conditions are contained in the Private and Secondary Employment Policy and guidelines.

Special arrangements apply to employees who are contesting State or Federal elections. Details of these arrangements are in Premier's Memo C2013-04 & PSCC 2013-03 - Contesting Elections.

Specific advice is available for staff considering private employment in the tutoring industry in Private and Secondary Employment.

An example of inappropriate secondary employment would include the following scenario:

In addition to performing full-time employment for the Department, an employee worked the 6.00pm to 3.00am taxi shift on three nights a week without prior approval for secondary employment. His colleagues observed him sleeping at various times during the day. He explained to his supervisor that he was experiencing significant financial difficulties and needed additional income. They reached an agreement that he would only drive a taxi on Friday and Saturday nights and approval was granted on this basis.

As a departmental employee, you are required to serve the elected Government of the day by:

  • implementing Government policy
  • providing impartial and accurate advice to the Government of the day
  • administering laws passed by the Parliament, and
  • providing responsive service to the community in line with Government policy

As an elected or nominated spokesperson for a professional association or a union, you are entitled to make public comments in relation to education and training matters as long as it is clear that those comments represent the association or union views, and not necessarily those of the Department. You are required to clearly acknowledge the capacity in which you are expressing such views.

As an individual, you have the right to participate in political and community activities and to pursue personal interests, provided any conflict that arises is recognised and adequately managed.

It is your obligation to ensure that your involvement in any political party, industrial organisation, or community and personal activity is understood to represent your view or those of the organisation you represent, and not those of the Department.

In participating in any political, community and personal activity, you must:

  • not make any comment that may cast doubt on your capacity to implement departmental policies and guidelines objectively
  • not participate in private political activities in the work environment
  • not use the Department's resources to assist your political, community or personal activities
  • not use information obtained through your work at the Department to assist your political, community or personal activities, or make the information known to any other person, and
  • not misrepresent the position of the Department on any issue.

Examples of inappropriate conduct include people who identify themselves as departmental employees, especially on public social networking and blog sites and make:

  • disparaging comments about the Government or the Department
  • public comment about their dissatisfaction with current Government policy to the media, or
  • public comment about their own political or religious beliefs while purporting to represent the Department.

Refer to the Department's Media Relations Policy for more information.

As a departmental employee, you are accountable for any documents that you sign. Therefore, you should carefully read all documents you are asked to sign.

You must not sign a document, which you know is not true and correct.

You must only sign your own name and must never permit or encourage anyone to sign a name other than their own. Managers and supervisors must not encourage or coerce their staff to sign a document with which the employee is not satisfied.

You should only use your own name when, for example, sending emails, and should not give the impression that you have the authority of another person without their permission.

You should never give another person your staff portal password and you should take care to ensure that you have 'logged off' fully from your computer before leaving it unattended.

A personal reference is a document, which provides information or makes assertions about another person's skills, conduct, performance, character, and suitability or non-suitability for employment.

You may agree to a request from an employee or student to write a personal reference.

You cannot use departmental letterhead when writing a personal reference for an employee that is considered your personal assessment or opinion, and not those of the Department. Official references; ie on the Department's letterhead, can only be obtained with the approval of a Director, Deputy Secretary, or Secretary.

If asked to provide a reference, it is your responsibility to complete the report honestly and based on information that can be verified. You must not make false or derogatory statements about an individual.

The resources you use at work are publicly funded assets. This includes your time.

As a departmental employee, you have an obligation to:

  • use public resources efficiently and effectivelyExternal link for official purposes
  • make decisions relating to the use of public resources that are reasonable, are correctly authorised and can withstand public scrutiny
  • treat departmental property with due care and ensure it is secured against theft and misuse.

You should be economical and avoid waste and extravagance in your use of resources such as office facilities and equipment, including the use of motor vehicles, travel and catering.

You may use departmental resources in your personal time for work-related purposes only. If you wish to use departmental property and facilities for personal use, you must obtain approval from your manager. To use departmental equipment off-site, you must seek approval from your office manager, preferably in writing.

Examples of inappropriate conduct:

  • An employee uses her departmental phone number on her private business card, and receives regular private business calls during work time. She spends extended periods of work time responding to her private business interests to the detriment of the Department.
  • An employee appropriately takes a departmental car to attend a scheduled meeting. However, after the meeting, the employee picks up two friends and drives into the city for dinner.

Refer to the Use of Equipment - Appendix 2 document in the Resources section in the Code of Conduct for further information.

The Department relies on its intellectual property to deliver its services. All employees play an important role in ensuring the Department's intellectual property is properly identified, protected, used and where appropriate shared so as to ensure its benefit to the organisation and stakeholders.

When creating material you need to ensure the intellectual property rights of others are not infringed and information is recorded about any third party copyright/other rights included in materials.

Advice relating to sharing or licensing the Department's intellectual property should be sought from the unit/directorate that created the intellectual property and the Department's Copyright prior to any arrangement taking place.

The Department cannot give away or assign its intellectual property without the approval of the Attorney-General's Department.

The Department owns all intellectual property rights (including copyright) in material created by its employees, pursuant to their employment.

If you develop material that relates to your employment with the Department, the copyright in that material will belong to the Department. This may apply even if the material was developed in your own time or at home.

You should not use the Department's intellectual property (including copyright) for private purposes without obtaining written permission from the directorate or unit that created the material.

If you need advice or further information, contact the Copyright Unit within Legal Services on (02) 9561 8179

Lobbying is the practice of influencing the decisions of Government officials and legislators by an external person, organisation or agency. A lobbyist is a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest or a member of a lobby. Governments often define and regulate organised group lobbying.

"A lobbyist" does not include:

  • an association or organisation constituted to represent the interests of its members eg a trade union or the Parents and Citizens Association
  • a religious or charitable organisation; or
  • an entity or person whose business is a recognised technical or professional occupation.

As a departmental employee, you must comply with the NSW Government Lobbyist Code of Conduct. It states:

A government representative shall not at any time permit lobbying by:

  • Lobbyist who is not on the NSW Register of Lobbyists;
  • any employee, contractor or person engaged by a Lobbyist to carry out lobbying activities whose name does not appear in the Lobbyist's details noted on the Register of Lobbyists in connection with the Lobbyist;
  • any Lobbyist or employee, contractor or person engaged by a Lobbyist to carry out lobbying activities who, in the opinion of the Government Representative, has failed to observe any of the requirements of clause 4.3 of the Code.


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