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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 9121

Fair Work Ombudsman

(Question No. 1310)

Senator Abetz asked the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, upon notice, on 31 October 2011:

In regard to the Fair Work Ombudsman, has any advice been provided to Fair Work Inspectors on their 'ethical obligations'; if so, what ethical obligations are Fair Work Inspectors advised to observe.

Senator Chris Evans: The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

Section 700(2) of the Fair Work Act 2009 provides that the Fair Work Ombudsman may appoint a person as a Fair Work Inspector only if the Fair Work Ombudsman is satisfied that the person is of good character.

In order to meet this requirement, nominees for appointment as Fair Work Inspectors must sign a 'Good Character Declaration', a declaration that they have been informed of, and will perform their duties as inspectors in accordance with, their obligations under the Public Service Act 1999, the Fair Work Act 2009 and the APS Values and APS Code of Conduct. They must also declare that they are not engaged in any activities which would constitute any potential conflict of interest with respect to their duties as inspectors and that they are aware of the need to disclose any potential conflict of interest in relation to a particular case to their supervisors. They must also declare that they are not aware of any personal activities which, if made public, would bring their good character into question or compromise the activities of the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The nominee's reporting manager must also sign a declaration that to the best of his or her knowledge the nominated Fair Work Inspector is of good character. The manager must also declare that the applicant is aware of the powers and responsibilities in exercising the powers of a Fair Work Inspector under the Fair Work Act 2009.

'Fair Work Inspectors must also attend an induction training program which teaches the general skills, expectations and knowledge required of a Fair Work Inspector.' The training includes a practical exercise regarding ethical challenges faced by Fair Work Inspectors.'

The Australian Public Service (APS) Code of Conduct, set out in section 13 of the Public Service Act 1999, specifies the standards of behaviour and conduct that are expected of all APS employees. The APS Code of Conduct incorporates the APS Values set out at section 10 of the Act. The APS Code of Conduct and APS Values apply to all APS employees including Fair Work Inspectors.

The Australian Public Service Commission's Ethics Advisory Service provides advice and resources to APS employees for the application and interpretation of the APS Values and Code of Conduct. It is available to all APS employees seeking advice on ethical issues in the workplace. All Fair Work Inspectors can contact the Ethics Advisory Service either directly or via the Fair Work Ombudsman's Ethics Contact Officer.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has a policy on 'the APS Code of Conduct' and a guide on 'Handling Breaches of Conduct'.

All Fair Work Inspectors are required to identify and manage conflicts of interest.

Under the Fair Work Ombudsman ' s Risk Management Policy, all managers and staff are required to integrate risk management procedures and practices into their daily activities.

All SES employees, including those acting in SES jobs for longer than three months, are required to make a written declaration of financial and personal interests. Some non-SES employees whose responsibilities also require them to be particularly transparent about their private financial and personal interests, are required to make the declaration.

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a confidential counselling service available to assist all Fair Work Ombudsman employees including Fair Work Inspectors, with a wide range of personal and/or work related concerns. It is a free service. It is available to give assistance for personal and work related concerns, including interpersonal conflicts and work environment problems.

The Fair Work Ombudsman provides ongoing training and education on ethical issues, such as a recent three-part video chronicle published on the intranet, about a fictional character Billy, who was found to be in breach of the APS Code of Conduct for sending inappropriate work emails.