Trust, Service

& Accountability

Behaving Ethically

Supporting public servants engaging with Ministers’ offices

Ministers employ staff to assist them to exercise their political office functions.  Staff who are employed by Ministers are subject to the requirements of the Members of Parliament Staff Act 2013. The Government Sector Employment Act 2013 does not apply to Ministerial staff. 

Senior public service managers, whose employees engage with Ministerial staff, play an important role in ensuring their employees have the necessary capabilities and support.

Employees must receive appropriate orientation, training and feedback, so they are clear on their roles, responsibilities and boundaries.

It is critical that employees understand that:

  • Their role is to provide frank and fearless advice, which is uninfluenced by party political considerations or personal political allegiances; impartial and free from actual, potential or reasonably perceived conflicts of interests; and based on sound evidence
  • Ministers are free either to accept, or to reject, advice, options and recommendations provided by Departments and agencies. 

Most training for employees engaged with a Minister’s office tends to be ‘on the job’. Sometimes employees are suddenly enlisted in critical and urgent situations. Employees who may be called upon should be identified and appropriately briefed on protocols for engaging with ministerial staff and the situations they may face. Experienced employees should be invited to share their knowledge and insights, and to mentor new colleagues.

Questions to be considered for discussion with employees engaged with Ministers’ offices include:

Table Part 1

Table Part 2

Employees who may be required to act as advisors in the Parliament - for example while legislation is being debated - should be given the opportunity to observe proceedings beforehand, ideally with an experienced colleague.

Employee concerns may arise, at times, from a misunderstanding or differing expectations of their role and boundaries. Any concerns regarding engagement with a Minister’s office should be referred to a relevant senior manager.

Much interaction with Ministers’ offices is spoken, particularly where urgent advice is being sought. Departments/agencies should clarify protocols for handling requests and remind employees of the need to maintain good records of communication with Ministers’ offices. Where possible, requests from ministerial staff on behalf of the Minister should be in writing, or confirmed in a return email from the employee to the Minister’s office.