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Ministers' Office Handbook

Employment Policy

Employment Policy

Employment of Ministers' Staff

Staff Categories

There are three primary categories of staff in Ministers’ offices:

  1. Ministers (or their delegates) may employ staff under the MOPS Act in accordance with arrangements and conditions approved by the Premier.
  2. NSW Government sector employees may be seconded from agencies to Ministers’ offices in accordance with clause 35 of the Government Sector Employment Regulation 2014 (GSE Regulation).
  3. Department Liaison Officers (DLOs) may be assigned from agencies to Ministers’ offices to assist with office operations (see DPC Circular 2016-03 Department Liaison Officers for details of DLO arrangements).

Prior to any employment contract or other employment arrangement being agreed, approval must be granted by the Premier’s Chief of Staff on a case-­by-­case basis.

Other types of employment

In addition to the three primary categories of staff in Ministers’ offices, people may be employed or engaged under other arrangements with Ministers’ offices. This includes interns,volunteers, agency temporary staff, contractors, secondments not covered by the GSE Regulation, and any other person identified to work in a Minister’s office. Details of any such proposed engagements need to be approved by the Minister’s Chief of Staff on a case-­by-case basis in consultation with the Premier’s Chief of Staff, prior to commencement. Unless otherwise provided, the NSW Office Holder’s Staff Code of Conduct applies in all cases.

Conditions of Employment

Under the MOPS Act, the Premier, and the Premier’s Chief of Staff, as the Premier’s delegate, determine the conditions of employment for Ministers’ staff. Sources are:

  • The Determination by the Premier of Conditions of Employment for Political Office Holders’ Staff (see ATTACHMENT A); and
  • Material published in this Handbook in relation to Ministers’ staff, which also constitutes conditions of employment.
  • Ministers’ staff employed under the MOPS Act and those seconded under the GSE Regulation must comply with:
  • The NSW Office Holder’s Staff Code of Conduct (see ATTACHMENT B) which requires compliance with:
    • The NSW Lobbyists Code of Conduct
    • Record-­keeping requirements under the State Records Act 1998, the MOPS Act and the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009.
    • Responsibilities under work health and safety legislation.
  • Gifts, Hospitality and Benefits Policy for Office Holder Staff (see ATTACHMENT C).
  • Personal Interest Declaration for Office Holder Staff (see ATTACHMENT D).
  • Ministers’ Staff Acceptable Use of Communication Devices Policy (see ATTACHMENT E).
Relocation Assistance for Political Office Holders' Staff

See ATTACHMENT F for the policy.

Severance Payments for Political Office Holders’ Staff

See ATTACHMENT G for the Policy and undertaking.

NSW Government Sector Employees Seconded as Political Office Holders’ Staff

See ATTACHMENT H for details on salary maintenance for NSW Government sector employees.

Criminal Records Checks and Security Clearances

The employment of Ministers' staff is subject to the requirement to have a criminal records check. A security clearance may be required where the Minister or their delegate determines it is necessary for performing the duties of their role. Criminal records checks and security clearance may be carried out from time to time. Staff are encouraged to disclose criminal convictions or potential security concerns should they arise during the term of their employment.

Recognition of Prior Service with the Government Sector

Service with NSW Government sector agencies and Ministers’ offices may be recognised for severance (see ATTACHMENT G) and for extended leave purposes (see ATTACHMENT I), on a case-­by-­case basis.

Orientation

Staff members need to participate in the orientation program for Ministers’ staff as notified by the Minister or delegate.

Ministers’ Staff at Work

Salary Sacrifice

Ministers’ staff may salary sacrifice for the following benefit items:

  • Education (self and professional)

  • Additional employee contributions to private superannuation funds

  • Motor vehicles (100% private novated leases)

  • Laptop or notebook computer (mostly used for work purposes).

Workplace Surveillance

Records created from electronic surveillance at the workplace may be used for security, employment and work health and safety purposes.

These records will only be disclosed outside employment processes in accordance with official procedures for release of confidential employment information or as required by law.

Working from Home

Any working from home arrangements will be in accordance with office and business practice within the Minister’s office.

Disclosure of Information -­ Confidentiality

Staff members will obtain and generate information in the course of employment and must not use or disclose such information that is not in the public domain unless the use or disclosure is required by law, made in the proper performance of a staff member’s duties, or approved by the Minister. The obligation not to disclose any classified information continues after a staff member’s employment ends, unless the disclosure is required by law or approved in writing by the Minister.

Learning and Development

Staff members may participate in learning and development programs for Ministers’ staff as notified by the Minister or delegate from time to time. Decision-­making is based on the following criteria:

  • the program is relevant to the staff member’s work, or required for the operational needs of the Minister’s office; and

  • sufficient funds are available in the Minister’s office budget.

Study Assistance

In certain circumstances, study assistance may be approved for a staff member.  Such approval will be based on the following criteria:

  • the program is relevant to the staff member’s work, or required for the operational needs of the Minister’s office; and

  • sufficient funds are available in the Minister’s office budget.

Study assistance may be approved by the Chief of Staff as financial delegate, and by the Minister in the case of the Chief of Staff.  Study assistance for the Chief of Staff also needs to be approved by a DPC financial delegate.

The study must contribute to and not be detrimental to the performance of the staff member’s job.

Applications for study assistance need to be made in the calendar year the course of study is being undertaken.

The study assistance provided can be up to $6,000 per annum or the actual annual cost, whichever is the lesser, for course fees, student fees, HECS and any associated costs.

The cost is paid from the Minister’s office budget.

Payment may be made to the relevant institution at the beginning of each term/semester. Alternatively, the staff member may be reimbursed for costs incurred on production of all receipts.

Study assistance must be refunded by the staff member if unsuccessful during the term/semester.  Costs for repeating the failed subject/course (up to the $6,000 limit) may be reimbursed upon successful completion.

Staff who terminate their employment and who have received financial assistance for a course of study within the previous twelve months must repay the amount as part of the termination arrangements.

See ATTACHMENT J for a copy of the Study Assistance Application for Office Holder Staff.

Work Environment

Work Health and Safety

Everyone working in a Minister’s office, including staff, contractors and visitors, must comply with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The best way to manage work health and safety is through managers and staff working together to identify and solve work health and safety problems. This commitment includes regular consultation with staff and, where necessary, with contractors and suppliers of equipment and services to make sure work health and safety is being managed effectively.

See ATTACHMENT K for work health and safety.

Security, Emergency Management and Business Continuity

Everyone working in a Minister’s office, including staff and contractors, must be fully cognisant of all security, emergency management and business continuity requirements applying to 52 Martin Place and Parliament House.  They must comply with directions associated with security related incidents that may impact on normal operations or business continuity.  Visitors to Ministers’ offices must comply with directions as notified by authorised persons.

Support for Employees Experiencing Domestic Violence

Employees who experience domestic or family violence may take leave in accordance with  Treasury Circular NSW TC 14/16.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

All employees have access to the EAP at any time by calling 1300 687 327.

The EAP provides access to free, confidential and independent counselling and support for a range of issues including relationship, stress and anxiety, depression, grief and loss, substance abuse, bullying and harassment, conflict resolution, and work related concerns. Services are currently provided by Converge International.

Prevention and Management of Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace

Ministers’ offices need to be workplaces free from bullying, harassment and discrimination, and need to provide processes for resolution of issues as quickly and as close to the source as possible.

The Chief of Staff needs to deal with workplace behaviour issues in a proactive manner so that minor issues are not escalated.  All parties to a grievance or dispute are expected to exercise goodwill and cooperate in resolving the matter.

See ATTACHMENT L for details on workplace conduct.

Assistance for People with Writing Difficulties

The following guidance is provided to avoid the possibility of inadvertent discrimination against people with writing difficulties.

When a member of the public requests a meeting with a Minister or the Minister’s office, it is routine practice to advise the person to submit a written request.

This practice may result in inadvertent discrimination if the person requesting a meeting is unable to put the request in writing, such as people with dyslexia.

People unable to put the request in writing may complain to the Anti-­Discrimination Board about indirect discrimination, and may receive financial compensation for unlawful discrimination.

Please be alert to the need for people with writing difficulties to be assisted in complying with a requirement to put requests for meetings in writing.  As an example, if a member of staff receives a request by telephone for a meeting, and the person advises that they cannot put the request in writing:

  • Inquire about the purpose of the meeting and explore whether a meeting with a person from a portfolio agency might be more helpful than a meeting with the Minister or the Minister’s office – if this is acceptable, provide the appropriate agency contact;; this approach may be appropriate where specialist assistance is needed on a complex matter and an agency has an advisory service.
  • If the person confirms the request for a meeting with the Minister or the Minister’s office, inquire if they have a family member, friend or support service who could assist with putting the request in writing – if this is acceptable, assistance from the Minister’s office with putting the request in writing is not needed.
  • If the person asks for assistance from the Minister’s office with putting the request in writing, decide who will assist, and advise the person how assistance will be provided – the member of staff providing assistance should record the person’s name, contact details, the purpose of the meeting, preferred dates and times and how they want to be notified about the decision on the request, and submit the request in accordance with usual office practice.  A copy of the written request should be provided to the person who requested the meeting.  The decision on the request should be issued in accordance with usual practice, in the form of advice preferred by the person.

The source document on this matter is DPC Circular 2008-10.

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