Trust, Service

& Accountability

Behaving Ethically

Your responsibilities – a summary

As a NSW Government employee you must act in ways that are lawful, ethical and build trust in the public sector. It is your responsibility to know, understand and comply with all the ethical and legal obligations that apply to you.

You should also take the time to learn what risks there are – in the context of your own job  – to your acting lawfully and ethically. This is especially important if you are new to public sector employment, as there are certain obligations that are different from, or do not exist in, the private and not-for-profit sectors.

Remember – your conduct, both inside and outside the workplace, can have a significant impact on your employer, your colleagues and, most importantly, the people of NSW.

Personal conduct

Ethical Framework

At all times, your conduct must be consistent with the Ethical framework for the government sector. The ethical framework is set out in Part 2 of the Government Sector Employment Act 2013.

Code of ethics and conduct

The Public Service Commissioner has developed a Code of ethics and conduct for NSW government sector employees. Consistent with the Commissioner’s Direction No 1 of 2015, you are required to comply with the mandatory requirements of the code, and with any supplementary requirements determined by your Department Secretary or agency head.

Public resources

You must use public resources in an efficient, effective and prudent way. Never use public resources – money, property, equipment or consumables - for your personal benefit, or for an unauthorised purpose. If you are responsible for receiving, spending or accounting for money, ensure you know, understand and comply with the requirements of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983, the Public Works and Procurement Act 1912 and the Government Advertising Act 2011.

Equal access and opportunity

Treat people equally, whether they are members of the public, customers or colleagues. Don’t discriminate against people because of their sex, race or ethnicity, disability, age, marital status or sexual preference, or because they are a carer or a transgender person. Your obligations are set out in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. The Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW has more information.


Bullying is not tolerated in NSW government sector workplaces. You are required to treat members of the public, customers and colleagues fairly and with courtesy and respect. If you are bullied by anyone, or you witness bullying, it is important that you report it immediately so that it can be stopped. Refer to your agency’s policies and procedures on how the report should be made and to whom.

Bullying in the workplace is defined as ‘repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety’. A single incident, or reasonable workplace actions (including legal and reasonable performance management and directions to employees), are not bullying.


As a government sector employee, you must never make improper use of the knowledge, power or resources of your position for personal gain or the advantage of others. To do this would be corrupt. 

Make sure you understand the definition of corrupt conduct which is in the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988. If you see or suspect corrupt conduct, you should report it - see the section on ‘Reporting wrongdoing’ below.

Identifying and managing risks

Gifts and benefits

Make sure you are familiar with your agency’s gifts and benefits policy. Don’t solicit gifts or benefits, or accept a gift or benefit that is not allowed. Be alert to actual, potential or reasonably perceived conflicts of interests, and the risk of being ‘captured’ by a person or organisation who wants a favour or special treatment.

Workplace safety

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 prescribes measures to ensure your safety at work. You must take reasonable care for your own health and safety and do nothing that adversely affects the safety of others. You should report risks to your health and safety to your manager and familiarise yourself with the work, health and safety arrangements in your workplace. WorkCover NSW provides advice on workplace health and safety.

Handling information


Under the State Records Act 1998, each NSW Government agency has obligations to make and keep full and accurate records of its activities, and to establish and maintain a records management program. As a government sector employee, it is your responsibility to follow the procedures which your Department Secretary or agency head has put in place to ensure that recordkeeping obligations are met.

Be aware that there are legal penalties for acting in ways that are contrary to the State Records Act. The State Records Authority of NSW provides guidance on recordkeeping.

Privacy, personal information and health information

The Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 set out principles for the collection, storage and usage of personal information and health information about individuals. These principles are legal obligations with which your agency must comply. If you work with such information, you should familiarise yourself with the Information Protection Principles and the Health Privacy Principles.

Be aware that it is a crime to intentionally disclose another person’s personal information or health information, outside the performance of your official duties. The Information and Privacy Commission NSW provides guidance on your obligations as a government sector employee.

Access to information

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) mandates the proactive release of open access information and requires that this information is available to members of the public free of charge or at the lowest reasonable cost. Additionally, the GIPA Act provides a mechanism for members of the public to access government information more broadly unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.

You should find out how GIPA Act applications are handled in your agency. Be aware that there are legal penalties for breaching the GIPA Act, including for destroying, concealing or altering any information for the purpose of preventing its lawful disclosure. The Information and Privacy Commission NSW provides guidance on GIPA Act requirements.

Procurement of goods and services

Under the Public Works and Procurement Act 1912, government agencies must ensure they obtain value for money in the exercise of their functions in relation to the procurement of goods and services. Agencies have responsibilities to undertake procurement in accordance with: the principles of probity and fairness; any policies and directions of the NSW Procurement Board that apply to the agency; and the agency’s terms of accreditation (if any) by the Procurement Board.

Government sector employees should consult their agency’s Chief Procurement Officer where they require assistance in undertaking procurement activities. Further information on NSW Government procurement law and policy is also available at

Reporting wrongdoing

Public interest disclosures

The Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 provides certain protections for NSW Government employees who report allegations of serious wrongdoing, in accordance with the Act. Amongst other things, serious wrongdoing includes corrupt conduct, serious maladministration, serious and substantial waste of public money, and failure to exercise functions properly in accordance with the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009.

You should familiarise yourself with your agency’s internal reporting policy for public interest disclosures. You can report wrongdoing internally, or to an investigating authority. The Office of the NSW Ombudsman provides information on how to make a public interest disclosure. The ICAC also provides information relating to making a public interest disclosure about corrupt conduct, and reports can be made to the ICAC using its online reporting system. Serious and substantial waste may be reported to the Auditor-General; concerns about government information systems may be reported to the Office of the Information Commissioner; serious wrongdoing in a council may be reported to the Office of Local Government; serious wrongdoing by a police officer may be reported to the Police Integrity Commissioner; and serious wrongdoing by the NSW Crime Commission or its officers may be reported to the Inspector of the Crime Commission.

For more information on how to make a public interest disclosure, see section 4.2 (How to report serious wrongdoing).

Further information

Ask your manager for further information on the standards of conduct you need to demonstrate in your workplace. Further information and resources are also available from the NSW Public Service Commission.