Trust, Service

& Accountability

Behaving Ethically

4.3 Ethical Scenarios

Every government sector employee has a responsibility to act in the public interest, in all aspects of their work and in their relations with others - customers, the Government and colleagues.

Acting consistently with the Ethical Framework for the government sector is not only a requirement for ‘important’ projects or occasions, or for Secretaries and agency heads.  Acting with integrity, trust, service and accountability is mandatory for everyone in carrying out their day to day duties, actions, decisions, and in the use of resources and assets. But how to do this is not always clear cut or obvious. Often, there is no perfect answer.

Knowing how to act ethically takes time, practice, discussion, learning and support.

The scenarios

The following scenarios have been designed to assist you to understand your ethical obligations under the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 and other relevant legislation. They have also been designed to be a discussion starter so you and your work group can talk about what you would do - and what you should ethically do - if scenarios like these occurred in your workplace. The scenarios involve real situations which you may encounter in your work.

In deciding on your answers, you should refer back to the core values and principles of the Ethical Framework.

The answers

Four or five possible answers are presented for each scenario. The situations are not always straightforward, so a ‘best’ answer is suggested, rather than a single ‘right’ answer. 

More importantly, talk with your work colleagues about what the (ethically) right thing to do would be if these scenarios occurred in your workplace.

Further scenarios

The following scenarios are not intended to cover the full range of situations and issues which employees may face. Departments and agencies should formulate their own scenarios relevant to their employees and the specific responsibilities and interactions of the organisation.


Departments and agencies should encourage employees to consider all the scenarios, discuss the issues raised, and suggest alternative ethical actions that employees should take if these or similar scenarios occurred in their workplace.

Scenarios prepared by departments and agencies should be reviewed and updated, or replaced, to reflect employees’ needs and suggestions, and relevant Codes of Ethics and Conduct and policies, such as for gifts and  benefits