Local Government Employee Code of Conduct

Employee Code Regulations

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On 3 February 2021, the Local Government Regulations Amendment (Employee Code of Conduct Regulations) 2021 (Employee Code Regulations) introduced minimum requirements for local government employees in relation to gifts, conflicts of interest and disclosure. In addition, the Employee Code Regulations provide that a local government’s code of conduct for employees must contain requirements pertaining to:

  • behaviour;
  • disclosure of information;
  • the use of information and resources;
  • record keeping; and
  • reporting and managing misconduct.

The CEO is required to prepare and implement a code of conduct to be observed by employees. The CEO may amend the code as required and must ensure that an up-to-date version of the code is published on the local government’s official website. 

The need for Employee Code Regulations

Local government employees are public sector employees who deliver vital services in the community.

A code of conduct for employees reflects the local government’s standards of behaviour and integrity to all employees and the community they serve. Effective codes that are well communicated and effectively implemented contribute to building and sustaining a culture of integrity and create a transparent and accountable framework within which employees can operate.

Section 25 of the Local Government Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Amendment Act) requires a CEO to prepare and implement a code of conduct for employees.

Part 9 (34B and 34C) of the Local Government (Administration) Regulations 1996 previously prescribed the content of employee codes of conduct. The Employee Code Regulations incorporate some of the existing requirements (under 34B and 34C) pertaining to gifts and conflicts of interest, while also requiring additional matters to be included in a code of conduct. The other additional matters that must be included in an employee code are based on the Public Sector Commission’s key integrity risks for public sector employees.

Required actions for local governments

Each local government must review and/or update their employee code of conduct to ensure that it meets the requirements set out in the Employee Code Regulations. Some of the content of a local government’s current employee code of conduct will likely already meet the requirements of the regulations, for example, the requirements for conflicts of interest which remain unchanged. Local governments will need to incorporate requirements relating to standards of behaviour, the use of information, use of local government resources and finances into their employee code if these matters are not already dealt with in their existing code.

Local governments must ensure their employee code of conduct includes requirements relating to reporting of misconduct as provided in the Employee Code Regulations and in accordance with their statutory obligations. For example, under the Corruption, Crime and Misconduct Act 2003, the principal officer of local government is required to notify the Public Sector Commission of suspected minor misconduct by employees and the Corruption and Crime Commission of suspected serious misconduct by employees.

The Public Sector Commission provides useful guidance on developing a new code, or revising an existing code in this resource: Developing a code of conduct: Guide for local government.

Priority actions for local governments

The CEO should review the local government’s current code of conduct and prepare and implement any amendments in accordance with the Employee Code Regulations as soon as practicable.

In the interests of consistency, it is suggested that the updated employee code of conduct is adopted around the same time that the council adopts the Model Code for Council Members, Committee Members and Candidates, which must be adopted by the council by 3 May 2021.

Key changes under the Employee Code Regulations

The Employee Code Regulations only apply to local government employees including the CEO, except where the regulations specifically exclude the CEO. The conduct of council members and committee members is now provided for in the Local Government (Model Code of Conduct) Regulations 2021, which also applies to candidates.

The clauses that relate to gifts do not apply to the CEO because gift requirements for CEO’s are dealt with separately under the Amendment Act.

An employee code of conduct must now deal with the recording of gift disclosures and the use of information relating to gifts that an employee may be permitted to receive.

It is no longer a statutory requirement that local governments maintain and publish a register of gift declarations that the local government has decided an employee is permitted to receive. However, it is recommended that local governments maintain a gift register for internal record keeping.

The CEO can now determine an acceptable value threshold for gifts to employees that is lower than the $300 threshold prescribed in the regulations. For example, a CEO may determine that the acceptable threshold is zero dollars, which would mean that employees cannot accept gifts.

Expected timeframe for implementation

It is expected that local governments review and amend their existing employee code of conduct in accordance with the Employee Code Regulations and other relevant legislation as soon as practicable.

Further information and support available

Further information can be found on the department's website, including a copy of the regulations and detailed explanatory notes. Local governments can also contact the Department directly via actreview@dlgsc.wa.gov.au with any queries in relation to the Employee Code Regulations.  

Page reviewed 05 February 2021