WorkSafe's policy on gifts, benefits or hospitality offered to employees, how these offers are recorded and managed and when they must be declined.
1.1 The purpose of the Gifts, Benefits & Hospitality Policy (the Policy) is to state the position of the Victorian WorkCover Authority (WorkSafe) on:
responding to offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality, and
providing gifts, benefits and hospitality
1.2 This policy is intended to support individuals and WorkSafe to avoid conflicts of interest and maintain high levels of integrity and public trust.
1.3 WorkSafe has issued this policy to support behaviour consistent with the:
Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees.
WorkSafe Code of Conduct (Collectively referred to as 'the Codes').
2.0 Scope and objective
2.1 This policy applies to WorkSafe's Board, Board Committees, the Executive Leadership Team (ELT), all employees (collectively referred to as 'employees') and other workplace participants.
2.2 For the purpose of this policy, other workplace participants include: contractors and consultants*, vendors and any individuals or groups (collectively referred to as Other Workplace Participants) undertaking activity for or on behalf of WorkSafe Victoria.
2.3 The overarching objective of this policy is to encourage behaviours that will demonstrate the high standards and levels of community and government expectations. In particular, this policy seeks to equip employees and other workplace participants to:
2.3.1 distinguish Token offers of appreciation or hospitality from inducements, conflicts of interest or non-token offers without a legitimate business benefit
2.3.2 manage Tokens offers appropriately, and
2.3.3 identify appropriate boundaries for the provision of gifts, benefits and hospitality in a way that is considered reasonable in terms of community expectations
2.4 Employees and other workplace participants may be offered gifts, benefits and hospitality, and WorkSafe acknowledges that offers cannot always be avoided. They must however be identified and appropriately managed to ensure that the highest levels of integrity and public trust in WorkSafe and the broader public sector are earned and maintained.
2.5 This policy has been developed in accordance with the Victorian Public Sector Commission (VPSC) guidelines for the Victorian public sector on giving and receiving gifts, benefits and hospitality (the Policy Guide).
2.6 The VPSC Policy Guide includes minimum accountabilities for managing gifts, benefits and hospitality. These minimum accountabilities are binding under Instruction 3.4.11 of the Instructions supporting the Standing Directions of the Minister for Finance 2018.
2.7 The Codes provide information on key values that public sector employees must demonstrate in their relationships with the government, the community, clients and other employees, and describe behaviours public sector employees should demonstrate for each value when performing their duties.
2.8 A breach of the Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Policy could constitute a breach of the 'Codes' and may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of a contract.
*Note the application of clause 1.4 of the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees to the engagement of contractors and consultants. Contractors and consultants are only bound by the code if explicitly required by their contract for services.
3.0 Policy statement
3.1 This policy outlines the obligations for all employees and other workplace participants to identify, report and manage offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality.
3.2 This policy states WorkSafe's expected standards for identifying actual, perceived or potential conflicts of interest in order to effectively manage risk and protect the integrity and maintain public trust in WorkSafe and the broader public sector.
4.0 Policy principles
4.1 WorkSafe is committed to and will uphold the following principles in applying this policy:
4.1.1 Impartiality: individuals have a duty to place the public interest above their private interests when carrying out their official functions. They will not accept gifts, benefits or hospitality that could raise a reasonable perception of, or actual, bias or preferential treatment. Individuals do not accept offers from those about whom they are likely to make business decisions.
4.1.2 Accountability: individuals are accountable for:
declaring all non-token offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality
declining non-token offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality, or where an exception applies under this policy, seeking approval to accept the offer, and
the responsible provision of gifts, benefits and hospitality
4.1.3 Integrity: individuals strive to earn and sustain public trust through providing or responding to offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality in a manner that is consistent with community expectations. Individuals will refuse any offer that may lead to an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest.
4.1.4 Risk-based approach: WorkSafe, through its policies, processes and Risk Committee, will ensure gifts, benefits and hospitality risks are appropriately assessed and managed. Individuals with direct reports will ensure they are aware of the risks inherent in their team’s work and functions and monitor the risks to which their direct reports are exposed.
4.2 Individuals with direct reports are accountable for overseeing management of their direct reports' acceptance or refusal of non-token gifts, benefits and hospitality, modelling good practice and promoting awareness of gifts, benefits and hospitality policies and processes.
4.3 The principles in this policy are designed to complement the application of WorkSafe's Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Policy.
5. The management of gift, benefits and hospitality offers
5.1 Managing gifts, benefits and hospitality offers.
5.1.1 Employees and other workplace participants must not, for themselves or others, seek or solicit gifts, benefits and hospitality. Employees and other workplace participants must refuse all offers of gifts, benefits and hospitality that:
are money, items used in a similar way to money, or items easily converted to money,
give rise to an actual, potential or perceived conflict of interest,
may adversely affect their standing as a public official or which may bring their public sector employer or the public sector into disrepute, or
are non-token offers without a legitimate business benefit
5.1.2 Employees and other workplace participants must declare all non-token offers (valued at $50 or more) of gifts, benefits and hospitality (whether accepted or declined and seek written approval from their People Leader or organisational delegate to accept any non-token offer. All declarations will be recorded in WorkSafe’s Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality register.
5.1.3 Employees and other workplace participants must refuse bribes or inducements and report inducements and bribery attempts to the Executive Director or People, Culture & Corporate (who should report any criminal or corrupt conduct to Victoria Police or the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission).
5.2 High risk functions and activities
5.2.1 Whilst a conflict of interest may occur in any part of WorkSafe, some functions and activities carry a higher risk than others of receiving gifts, benefits and hospitality offers that requires increased risk mitigation measures.
5.2.2 The following functions and activities are high risk within WorkSafe (not exhaustive) because they involve the exercise of public duties which are more likely to give rise to a conflict of interest because they are connected to powers/authority to confer a benefit, impose a penalty, regulate individual or business activities, distribute funds or subsidies and make binding decisions:
procurement, contract management and tendering
internal committee governance
enforcement (investigations and prosecutions)
sponsorship, grants, marketing
any role that has been assessed by a people leader as warranting declaration on the basis of potential, perceived or actual conflict of interest risk
5.3 Accepting gifts, benefits and hospitality offers
5.3.1 Recipients must exercise particular care when accepting gifts, benefits or hospitality if the donor:
is involved in a procurement or grant funding process
is the subject of, or potentially affected by a decision or the authority of WorkSafe
is in a contractual relationship with the Victorian Government or WorkSafe
has offered gifts, benefits or hospitality of any kind more than once in the past 12 months
5.3.2 Where conditions apply to offers, recipients must assess whether the conditions comply with the Policy. Recipients must refuse all offers which do not comply with the Policy.
5.3.3 When considering whether to accept an offer of a gift, benefit or hospitality, Recipients should consider the GIFT test included in the Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Procedure. If in doubt, employees should discuss the situation with their People Leader.
5.4 Declaring gift, benefits and hospitality offers
5.4.1 Employees and other workplace participants must use WorkSafe's digital Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Declaration Form to declare Non-Token offers, whether accepted or declined. Accepted Ceremonial Gifts should be declared using the digital form, irrespective of their value, i.e. whether they are Token or Non-Token.
5.4.2 Non-Token offers, whether accepted or declined, and accepted Ceremonial Gifts are required to be declared by recipients using the digital declaration form within 21 days of the offer date, and where possible, be approved prior to acceptance.
5.4.3 Where there is no opportunity to declare the Non-Token offer or Ceremonial Gift and seek approval from the people leader prior to acceptance, the Recipient must declare the Non-Token offer using the digital Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Declaration Form within 21 days of the acceptance date and provide an explanation of the circumstances to the people leader. Unjustified delays in declaring offers may constitute non-compliance with the Policy.
5.4.4 Employees and other workplace participants must ensure that the offer has a clear and legitimate business benefit if proposed to be accepted.
5.4.5 Accepted Token offers and declined and/or unanswered generic 'spam' invitations do not need to be declared. Neither does any hospitality provided by other Victorian Government agencies, where the reason for attendance is consistent with the Department's or Worksafe's and objectives, and the Recipients official role.
5.4.6 In accordance with Guidance 4.2.2, Minister for Finance Standing Directions 2018, Donations and Sponsorships are not considered gifts, benefits or hospitality and their administration does not fall under this policy.
6. The management of the provision of gifts, benefits and hospitality
6.1 All employees and other workplace participants must ensure that any gift, benefit or hospitality is provided for a business purpose in that it furthers the conduct of official business or other legitimate organisational goals or promotes and supports government policy objectives and priorities.
6.2 All employees and other workplace participants must ensure that any costs are proportionate to the benefits obtained for the State and would be considered reasonable in terms of community expectations.
6.3 All employees and other workplace participants must ensure that when hospitality is provided, individuals demonstrate professionalism in their conduct, and uphold their obligation to extend a duty of care to other participants.
6.4 WorkSafe will ensure compliance with the VPSC standards to:
6.4.1 Establish, implement and review organisational policies and processes for the effective management of gifts, benefits and hospitality that comprehensively address these minimum accountabilities.
6.4.2 Establish and maintain a register for gifts, benefits and hospitality offered to public officials that, at a minimum, records sufficient information to effectively monitor, assess and report on these minimum accountabilities.
6.4.3 Communicate and make clear within the organisation that a breach of the gifts, benefits and hospitality policies or processes may constitute a breach of binding codes of conduct and may constitute criminal or corrupt conduct and may result in disciplinary action.
6.4.4 Establish and communicate a clear policy position to business associates on the offering of gifts, benefits and hospitality to employees, including possible consequences for a business associate acting contrary to the organisation's policy position. This must take into consideration any whole of Victorian Government supplier codes of conduct.
6.4.5 Report at least annually to the organisation's Risk Committee on the administration and quality control of its gifts, benefits and hospitality policy, processes and register. This report must include analysis of the organisation's gifts, benefits and hospitality risks (including repeat offers from the same source and offers from business associates), risk mitigation measures and any proposed improvements.
6.4.6 Publish the organisation's gifts, benefits and hospitality policy and register on the organisation's public website. The published register will cover the current and the previous financial year.
7. Breaches and improper conduct
7.1 An employee's failure to avoid, wherever possible, identify, declare and manage gifts, benefits or hospitality offers or provisions in accordance with this policy could lead to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal consistent with clause 62 of the Victorian WorkCover Authority Enterprise Agreement 2016-2020 and subject to applicable Victorian or Federal law.
7.2 Any other workplace participant's failure to avoid, wherever possible, or identify, declare and manage any gift, benefit or hospitality offers or provisions in accordance with this policy may lead to contract re-negotiation, up to and including termination.
7.3 Employees and other workplace participants who consider that a gift, benefit or hospitality offer or provision within WorkSafe may not have been declared or are not being appropriately managed should speak up in accordance with WorkSafe's Fraud and Corruption Control Policy.
7.4 WorkSafe will take decisive action, including possible disciplinary action, against employees and other workplace participants who discriminate against or victimise those who speak up in good faith.
7.5 WorkSafe is committed to the aims and objectives of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012. WorkSafe does not tolerate improper conduct by our employees, officers, agents or other workplace participants nor the taking of reprisals against those who come forward to disclose such conduct.
7.6 The Public interest disclosures - detrimental action outlines how you can disclose improper conduct to IBAC without fear from reprisal.
8.0 Privacy and confidentiality
8.1 WorkSafe treats all personal information provided in a declaration in accordance with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic) and the Public Records Act 1973 (Vic).
8.2 Information arising from gift, benefit and hospitality declarations are managed in accordance with Worksafe's privacy procedures.
8.2 To ensure the confidentiality of information provided, WorkSafe's gifts, benefits and hospitality declaration register is stored on the secure WorkSafe platform.
8.3 A declaration may be seen by the Executive Director, People, Culture & Corporate Division representatives, the Chief Risk Officer, Risk Management Unit representatives and WorkSafe's internal auditors.
8.4 If there are circumstances that arise where the information contained within the gifts, benefits and hospitality declaration register is sought for purposes not contained within this policy such as verifying compliance with this policy, a disciplinary matter, investigation or legal matter the Executive Director People, Culture & Corporate may approve access to a declaration to a party not specifically named in this policy.
9.0 Accountabilities and responsibilities
9.1 All WorkSafe employees and other workplace participants are responsible for ensuring compliance with the gifts, benefits and hospitality in accordance with this policy.
9.2 All people leaders and line managers must ensure their employees and other workplace participants aware of their obligations under gifts, benefits and hospitality policy and other relevant policies and procedures.
9.3 The Executive Director, People, Culture and Corporate is responsible for establishing, implementing and reviewing policies and processes for the effective management of gifts, benefits & hospitality that comprehensively address the minimum accountabilities mentioned in this policy.
10.0 Reporting and Notification process
10.1 WorkSafe will publish its Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality Register on its public website annually. This will be done following the first Risk Committee meeting of the financial year. The content of the register will be aligned to VPSC guidelines.
10.2 Disciplinary action consistent with the relevant industrial instrument and legislation, including dismissal, may be taken where an individual fails to adhere to this policy. This includes where an individual fails to avoid wherever possible or identify, declare and manage a conflict of interest related to gifts, benefits and hospitality in accordance with this policy.
10.3 Actions inconsistent with this policy may constitute misconduct under the Public Administration Act 2004, which includes:
10.3.1 breaches of the Codes, such as sections of the Codes covering conflict of interest, public trust and gifts and benefits; and
10.3.2 individuals making improper use of their position.
10.4 WorkSafe will communicate its policy on the offering and provision of gifts, benefits & hospitality to other workplace participants including contractors, consultants and other business associates. Those identified as acting inconsistently with this policy may be subject to contract re-negotiation, including termination.
11.1 Assurance on the effectiveness of this policy within the organisation is provided through People & Culture and reported regularly via the Risk Committee.
12.0 Policy Review and Approval
12.1 This Policy is reviewed at least annually by People and Culture to ensure its continued appropriateness.
12.2 The Risk Committee will approve any material amendments to the Policy.
12.3 The Executive Director, People, Culture & Corporate may approve minor amendments to the Policy and all amendments to the Procedure.
Benefits include preferential treatment, privileged access, favours or other advantage offered to an individual. They may include invitations to sporting, cultural or social events, access to discounts and loyalty programs and promises of a new job.
The value of benefits may be difficult to define in dollars, but as they are valued by the individual, they may be used to influence the individual's behaviour.
Bribes are money or other inducements given or promised to employees to corruptly influence the performance of their role. Bribery of a public official is an offence punishable by up to ten years imprisonment.
Business associates are individuals or bodies that the public sector organisation has, or plans to establish, some form of business relationship with, or who may seek commercial or other advantage by offering gifts, benefits or hospitality.
The Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees 2015 describes the behaviours that exemplify the values contained in the Public Administration Act 2004.
This Code builds on our public sector’s long tradition of striving to meet the high standards the community rightly expects of it and provide the foundation of the integrity and accountability framework for all public sector employees.
A conflict of interest is where an employee or other workplace participant has private interests that could improperly influence, or be seen to influence, their decisions or actions in the performance of their public duties.
Conflicts of interest may be:
Actual: There is a real conflict between an employee's public duties and private interests.
Potential: An employee has private interests that could conflict with their public duties. This refers to circumstances where it is foreseeable that a conflict may arise in future and steps should be taken now to mitigate that future risk.
Perceived: The public or a third party could reasonably form the view that an employee's private interests could improperly influence their decisions or actions, now or in the future.
Gifts are free or discounted items or services and any item or service that would generally be seen by the public as a gift. These include items of high value (e.g. artwork, jewellery, or expensive pens), low value (e.g. small bunch of flowers), consumables (e.g. chocolates) and services (e.g. painting and repairs). Fundraising by public sector organisations that is consistent with relevant legislation and any government policy is not prohibited under the minimum accountabilities.
Hospitality is the friendly reception and treatment of guests, ranging from offers of light refreshment at a business meeting to restaurant meals and sponsored travel and accommodation. Hospitality may be offered to a public sector employee. It may also be provided by public sector organisations in three situations:
'Official State hospitality' is that hosted directly by an elected official and not a public sector organisation. This may include some diplomatic, consular and ceremonial activities, state contributions to the Australian system of honours and awards and the conduct of community cabinets. This type of hospitality is exempt from this policy framework.
'Official hospitality' refers to the hosting of diplomatic and foreign government officials, community representatives and/or people from the private and academic sectors by public sector organisations, and state-sponsored events. The persons attending these events are usually from organisations other than those within the Victorian public sector although public sector employees may attend to accompany a Departmental secretary or executive and/or Minister and liaise with attendees.
'General hospitality' is usually that provided by public sector organisations, often in the workplace and often involving internal stakeholders or fellow public sector employees. General hospitality can be provided for a range of purposes, from providing sustenance at a lengthy meeting through to celebrating achievements. Modest hospitality includes light refreshments such as tea or coffee offered as a courtesy and light meals such as sandwiches served at a business meeting held over meal times. It also extends to more generous forms of hospitality such as catered meals at functions, meals at restaurants, and may include the provision of alcohol. Depending on the nature of the hosting organisation's business, sometimes recipients of general hospitality may be external stakeholders or business partners.
Official business is work that is consistent with a public sector organisation's functions and objectives, and an employee's role. A departmental Secretary may be asked to accompany a Minister on official business. Senior staff may be asked to attend the official opening of a government sponsored project or to take part in a study tour of institutions to develop government policy. These activities constitute official business, do not have a private benefit and would not ordinarily be recorded as a reportable gift
Includes contractors, consultants, agency staff and any individuals or groups undertaking activity for or on behalf of WorkSafe Victoria engaged through a contract (including contractors engaged through an employment agency). Other workplace participants do not include casual, fixed-term or temporary employees directly employed by the WorkSafe.
A private interest means anything that can influence an employee or other workplace participant. Private interests include direct interests, such as an employee's or other workplace participants own personal, family, professional or business interests, as well as indirect interests, such as the personal, family, professional or business interests of individuals or groups with whom the employee or other workplace participant is, or was recently, closely associated.
Private interests may be pecuniary (i.e. financial), which includes any actual, potential or perceived financial gain or loss, as well as non-pecuniary, which includes any tendency toward favour or prejudice resulting from personal or family relationships, such as friendships, enemies or sporting, cultural or social activities.
A public register is a record, preferably digital, of a subset of the information contained in a register, for publication as required by the minimum accountabilities. Guidance regarding the information that should be published is provided in the Policy Guide.
A token offer is a gift, benefit or hospitality that is of inconsequential or trivial value to both the person making the offer and the recipient (such as basic courtesy). The minimum accountabilities state that token offers cannot be worth more than $50.
A non-token offer is a gift, benefit or hospitality that is, or may be perceived to be by the recipient, the person making the offer or by the wider community, of more than inconsequential value. All offers worth more than $50 are non-token offers and must be recorded on a gift, benefit and hospitality register.
Value is the estimated or actual value of a gift in Australian dollars. It is also the cumulative value of gifts offered by the same individual or organisation within a 12-month period. Significant gifts may warrant independent valuation.