Fire & Rescue NSW Code of Conduct
Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) is committed to the highest standards of conduct, honesty, ethical behaviour and fairness to support our reputation as a highly trusted organisation. This Code of Conduct establishes those standards for all FRNSW permanent, part time and temporary employees and contractors.
- An ethical FRNSW
- Respect for people
- Professionalism and diligence
- Economy and efficiency
- Breaches of this Code
- Reporting breaches
An ethical FRNSW
NSW government employees are required to maintain certain standards of conduct so that the functions of government are carried out in an efficient, fair and impartial manner. Such standards are designed to ensure the public sector acts, and is seen to act, with integrity.
Everyone in FRNSW has both an individual and organisational responsibility to act ethically. Every employee and contractor is responsible for observing the spirit, intent and content of this Code of Conduct in their work for FRNSW .
In addition, FRNSW has a corporate responsibility. In practice, this means that FRNSW must have equitable ethical policies, systems, procedures and practices for delivering services and managing employees (permanent and temporary) and contractors. There must be appropriate management systems to detect and resolve ethical dilemmas as they arise and to respond to potentially unethical decisions and practices when they are identified.
Commissioner and Corporate Executive Group responsibilities
The Commissioner and the Corporate Executive Group (CEG) are responsible for:
- establishing and maintaining ethical policies, systems and procedures for all aspects of FRNSW work, including the conduct and management of employees and contractors
- ensuring that employment policies and practices are fair and equitable
- ensuring that mechanisms for detecting and responding to potentially unethical circumstances (eg grievance and complaint handling systems) are appropriate and effective
- ensuring that areas of work that are of inherently higher risk in terms of ethics and corruption are identified, preventive strategies are put in place and employees working in such areas are supported
- monitoring the ethical health and culture of FRNSW and responding to any problems identified.
Managers are responsible for:
- monitoring their workplaces to prevent, identify and address situations likely to raise ethical dilemmas (eg establishing good procedural guidance for decision-making, particularly around the exercise of discretion)
- ensuring that employees and contractors are not placed in potentially difficult situations (eg by providing appropriate support for employees in the field where they may face compromising situations)
- being available and supportive to employees and contractors who require guidance on ethical dilemmas
- fostering a work environment free of harassment, discrimination, victimisation, corruption, maladministration and waste
- ensuring that employees and contractors are aware of and understand the principles contained in this Code of Conduct and the established systems and procedures for addressing ethical problems
- supporting and protecting employees and contractors who report, in good faith, instances of potentially unethical or corrupt practices
- ensuring that employees and contractors are treated fairly, equitably and in accordance with legislation and policy (eg ensuring employees have fair and equitable access to training and other development possibilities)
- taking action where misconduct, fraud or corrupt conduct are alleged or suspected
- maintaining strict confidentiality in relation to allegations and their investigation.
Employees’ and contractors’ responsibilities
Employees and contractors have a duty to:
- read and ensure they understand this Code of Conduct
- act ethically, lawfully and in accordance with the principles contained in this Code
- report potentially unethical or corrupt practices via the established mechanisms.
Respect for people
FRNSW employees and contractors must at all times treat members of the public, colleagues and other people they deal with at work with respect, courtesy, honesty and fairness, and have proper regard for their interests, rights, safety, health and welfare.
They must take all necessary steps to prevent and deal with harassment, bullying and discrimination in the work environment and report it if it occurs.
Working in the emergency services requires that employees work closely and cooperatively with, and are supportive of, one another. This does not mean, however, protecting colleagues if they act improperly.
FRNSW employees, like all other NSW public sector employees, are expected to promote confidence in the integrity of public administration and always act in the public interest. This means protecting the reputation of FRNSW , including by not engaging in activities, at work, that would bring FRNSW into disrepute.
Outside employment or business
FRNSW employees must not undertake secondary employment or business that could adversely affect their FRNSW duties, give rise to a conflict of interest or in any way be perceived as having a negative impact on the integrity of FRNSW .
Personal information obtained through work with FRNSW and FRNSW information that is not available to the public may not be accessed, used without authority or disclosed in secondary employment or business. Similarly, FRNSW facilities, equipment and systems must not be used for secondary employment or business purposes or any other unauthorised purposes.
More guidance on outside employment or business is set out in the Conflicts of interest policy and guidelines and in the Secondary employment policy for administration and clerical staff on the intranet.
Gifts, benefits and hospitality
FRNSW employees and contractors may only accept gifts, benefits or hospitality without reporting them if the gift, benefit or act of hospitality:
(b) acceptance is reasonable and would appear reasonable to others (that is, acceptance would not cause, or seem to anyone else that it would cause the recipient to have any obligation to the giver).
All other offers of gifts, benefits or hospitality should be refused. In the event that a gift cannot reasonably be refused, these gifts become FRNSW corporate property. Information about such gifts and their location must be reported to your manager and must be sent to the Manager Corporate Risk for entry in the Gifts register.
Any attempted bribes must be immediately reported to your manager.
Items registered in the Gifts register are subject to audit and are not to be kept at the homes of employees, contractors or managers. Items suitable for display at a FRNSW office, station or other work location may be kept by the workplace which received them. If appropriate, other items should be donated to charity.
Employees and contractors must also take reasonable measures to ensure their immediate family members do not receive gifts, benefits or hospitality that could be seen as an attempt to influence the employee or contractor in the conduct of their official duties. If anyone gives, or attempts to give, family members such gifts, the employee or contractor must report this to their manager or the Manager Corporate Risk.
If employees or contractors receive a gift, benefit or prize above a nominal value of $50 as a result of entering a competition or lucky draw while engaging in official duties (including attending conferences), it must be recorded in the Gifts register. The gift, benefit or prize then becomes FRNSW property.
More specific guidance on dealing with offers of gifts, benefits or hospitality is set out in the Gifts, benefits and hospitality policy and guidelines on the intranet.
Conflicts of interest
Employees have an obligation, when at work, to put the interests of the FRNSW first. Similarly, contractors engaged by the FRNSW have an obligation when working for, or dealing with work matters relating to, FRNSW to put the interests of FRNSW first.
Personal interests that could conflict with the interests of FRNSW can be financial or non-financial, and they include the personal interests of people or organisations close to the employee or contractor.
A conflict of interest exists where:
- an employee or contractor could be influenced by a personal interest in carrying out their FRNSW work or duty, or
- a reasonable person might think they could be influenced by a personal interest in carrying out their FRNSW work or duty.
Examples of conflict of interest include:
- Being on a staff selection panel where a relative is one of the applicants.
- Inspecting a business owned by your spouse’s employer.
- Deciding on which supplier to use in a situation where one of the suppliers has offered you secondary employment or another benefit.
The onus is on employees and contractors to identify they have an actual or perceived conflict of interest, to disclose it by reporting it in writing to their manager, and to take action to address it.
Options for managing a conflict of interest include:
- Restrict: Place restrictions on the employee’s or contractor’s involvement in the matter affected by the conflict of interest.
- Recruit: Recruit an independent third party to undertake or oversee part or all of the process of the matter affected by the conflict of interest.
- Remove: Remove the employee or contractor from the matter affected by the conflict of interest.
- Relinquish: The employee or contractor relinquishes the personal interest that is creating the conflict.
- Resign: The employee or contractor resigns.
The best approach is usually for the person with a conflict of interest to be removed from dealing with the matter giving rise to the conflict. This must be the default option, to be followed except where there are strong reasons for using another option.
Conflicts of interest and agreed action to manage them must be recorded in FRNSW Conflicts of interest register held by the Manager Corporate Risk.
Employees or contractors and their managers must continually monitor their chosen management strategy for the duration of the conflict of interest. If significant changes to the situation occur, employees or contractors and their managers will need to formally identify the current situation and any conflicts of interest that apply, before adopting a revised management strategy.
More specific guidance on identifying and dealing with conflicts of interest is set out in the Conflicts of interest policy and guidelines on the intranet.
Corruption, fraud, maladministration and waste
FRNSW does not tolerate corruption, fraud, maladministration, or serious and substantial waste of public money, and strongly supports employees who report such conduct.
In broad terms, corrupt conduct is the conduct of any person that could adversely affect the honest and impartial exercise of official functions by that person or any other public official. Fraud is one form of corruption. It is a deliberate and premeditated act which involves deception to gain advantage from a position of trust and authority.
This means, for example, that an honest mistake in making an expenses claim, or making a claim where the entitlements are subject to dispute, is not fraud, because such claims do not involve a deliberate attempt to deceive.
Examples of fraud and corruption include:
- Bribes offered to influence a public official’s conduct or decision making.
- Employees or contractors knowingly claiming for time they did not work, or expenses they did not incur as part of their FRNSW work.
- Managers allowing overtime to be worked when it is not necessary.
- Employees or contractors purchasing goods or services for personal use through FRNSW.
- Awarding a contract for FRNSW work where a conflict of interest is known to exist.
Maladministration is conduct that involves action or inaction of a serious nature that is contrary to law, or unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory, or based wholly or partly on improper motives. Examples include:
- Ignoring a legal requirement when conducting an inspection.
- Discriminating against a business in a decision because you dislike the business-owner.
- Deciding that administrative action should be taken against a person without considering the merits of the case.
Serious and substantial waste refers to the uneconomical, inefficient, improper or ineffective use of resources, authorised or unauthorised, which results in a loss or wastage of public funds or resources. Examples include
- Spending much more on a contract than was agreed.
- Not having appropriate safeguards, leading to significant thefts of equipment or supplies.
- Purchasing amounts of materials that are of such poor quality that they are not fit for use.
More specific guidance on identifying and dealing with corruption, fraud, maladministration and waste is set out in the Fraud and corruption prevention policy and guidelines on the intranet.
FRNSW employees must not use their position to solicit opportunities for future employment. They must not allow themselves or their work to be influenced by plans for, or offers of, employment after they leave FRNSW.
Former employees may not use or take advantage of confidential information obtained in the course of their employment, nor breach FRNSW intellectual property rights.
All employees and contractors should be careful in their dealings with former employees to ensure they do not give them, or appear to give them, favourable treatment or access to privileged information.
Professionalism and diligence
FRNSW employees and contractors must perform their duties diligently, impartially, and conscientiously to the best of their abilities. Employees and contractors must:
- ensure their work habits, behaviour and personal and professional relationships contribute to a harmonious and productive work environment
- deal with all functions consistently, promptly and fairly in accordance with approved procedures and without bias
- seek to obtain value for public money they spend and avoid waste and extravagance
- as far as practicable, keep up-to-date with advances and changes in their area of expertise
- comply with relevant legislative, industrial or administrative determinations, agreements and policies (eg drugs and alcohol, equal employment opportunity, privacy, personnel practices, purchasing and engaging consultants)
- not take improper advantage of, or misuse, information gained in the course of their employment
- ensure, when using discretionary powers regarding the merits of a particular case, that all the relevant facts are taken into consideration and irrelevant factors ignored.
Supervisors and managers
All supervisors and managers are responsible for ensuring the work of their employees and contractors is effective and efficient and that the objectives of the organisation are pursued. Supervisors and managers must:
- communicate effectively with employees and contractors to ensure they understand their tasks and responsibilities
- provide material and other support to assist employees and contractors in carrying out their functions
- ensure employees and contractors are aware of this Code of Conduct and, as far as practical, make sure employees and contractors adhere to its principles.
Supervisors and managers are accountable for employees’ and contractors’ unsatisfactory acts or omissions that are so serious, repeated or widespread that the supervisors should have been aware of them and taken steps to correct them.
FRNSW employees need to meet community expectations for professionalism, which includes appropriate dress and may also require the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) in accordance with the Recommended practice for wearing of uniforms and personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition, the uniformed arm of the FRNSW has to comply with FRNSW dress codes.
Employees must ensure that participation in political matters does not conflict with their primary duty as a public sector employee to serve the government of the day in a politically neutral manner.
If an employee identifies any potential conflict of interest, real or apparent, they should immediately raise it with their manager and, if necessary, more senior managers. If a conflict does arise, the employee may have to stop participating in the political activity or withdraw from areas giving rise to the conflict.
FRNSW employees, as members of the community, have the right to make public comment. However, there are some circumstances where public comment is inappropriate. Examples include:
- Where the comment may appear to be in some way an official comment of the government or FRNSW, but such comment has not been authorised.
- Where the comment indicates that the employee is unwilling to implement or administer the policies of the government of the day as they relate to their duties.
- Where the matter is controversial.
Any requests for comment that do not relate to employees’ immediate areas of responsibility should be referred to the employee’s manager, and in most cases to the Public Affairs and Communications Strategy Unit who will organise an authorised FRNSW response. Any request for comment made to a contractor should be referred immediately to the contractor’s manager.
FRNSW acknowledges that employees who are authorised representatives of their union will from time to time be required to make public comment as part of that role. In such cases, comment will be considered appropriate, provided it has been authorised by the relevant union.
Information and privacy
FRNSW employees and contractors are responsible for ensuring the creation and maintenance of proper documentation to record decision-making activities in accordance with FRNSW policies and procedures.
Information obtained in the course of FRNSW work may not be used for private purposes, including secondary employment or other business activities.
Official information or documents must only be used for the purposes originally intended.
Anything FRNSW employees develop, invent or create, either alone or in collaboration with others in the course of their employment or engagement with FRNSW, remains the intellectual property of FRNSW.
Intellectual property contracted or purchased by FRNSW must be strictly preserved. Employees, contractors and temporary personnel have no right to disclose, or use, any of such original material for any purpose other than in the course of their FRNSW duties, unless expressly authorised to do so.
Employees and contractors must take the utmost care to secure FRNSW property against theft, damage or misuse. Steps should also be taken to ensure that unauthorised access to information (including hard copy and electronic information), or access to information for purposes other than those intended, cannot occur.
Economy and efficiency
Use of resources
Employees and contractors are expected to be efficient and economical in the use and management of resources and not allow unauthorised use or abuse of FRNSW property and services. Given that much of the FRNSW’s equipment is specialised and costly, and required for saving lives and property, appropriate use of FRNSW resources is particularly important.
FRNSW employees must not use firefighting, rescue, hazmat or any other such equipment for private purposes.
Use of other FRNSW resources is permitted if:
- the use is both limited and reasonable, and it is restricted to FRNSW employee (that is, other people do not use the item)
- the use does not hamper FRNSW activities
- permission for the specific use has been obtained from the relevant manager.
Borrowing a FRNSW item must not materially use up, wear, or diminish the value of the item.
Generally, items should not be removed from FRNSW premises for private use. If they are removed for private use, employees must obtain their manager’s written permission for the removal and use of the item. Such items must be returned as quickly as possible and in good repair, and a record kept of the item’s removal and use.
Where the use of the resources requires special qualifications, training or experience, then the item may only be used for private purposes by an employee with the requisite qualifications, training or experience.
Employees or contractors may not:
- use any FRNSW resources (eg equipment, clothing, insignia, computers, other people’s time) for secondary employment or business purposes or any other unauthorised use
- gain a private benefit from training or practice activities (eg arranging chainsaw instruction to remove branches from their own property).
Breaches of this code
Breaches of this Code may result in disciplinary action, and corrupt or criminal conduct will be reported to the relevant authority.
Employees and contractors must report any breaches of this Code that they become aware of, or which they have reasonable grounds for suspecting. In particular, employees and contractors must report identified or reasonably suspected conflicts of interest, fraudulent or corrupt conduct, maladministration, or serious and substantial waste of public money.
Employees and contractors can make reports to their manager, the Professional Standards and Conduct Officer (who is FRNSW’s Disclosure Coordinator) or the Commissioner. If concerned about making a public approach they can put their report in writing, or request a meeting in a discreet location away from the workplace.
Alternatively, employees and contractors can report to the relevant investigating authority:
- Ombudsman for maladministration
- ICAC for matters involving corrupt conduct (including fraud)
- Auditor-General for matters involving serious and substantial waste of public money in agencies other than councils.
In addition, under the Protected Disclosures Act 1994, employees may make a report (a ‘protected disclosure’) to a journalist or Member of Parliament in relation to a matter involving corruption, maladministration, or serious and substantial waste of public money, but only if certain conditions are met.
The Protected Disclosures Act provides protection for people reporting misconduct - that is, making a protected disclosure - in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
Information and guidance on the making of a Protected Disclosure is set out in FRNSW Fraud and corruption prevention policy.