We must treat everyone fairly and with respect

Treating people fairly means that we do not show any favouritism, bias or self-interest in our work. Fairness is at the heart of the democratic process, which everyone in the State Services has a responsibility to support. We are required to administer the law and to give effect to government policy fairly and reasonably, and with respect for the people we serve.

Our decisions must be based on accurate information, taking into account only relevant considerations. We must decide cases on their merits. We must observe the principles of natural justice, which requires us to disclose information about the way we make decisions and allow a fair opportunity for people who may be affected by them to make representations. We must avoid any perceived unfairness that could arise from having any personal interest in decisions we make or from working on matters where we have a close relationship with those involved.

We must be fair to the community as a whole. This means that we must not concede to unreasonable demands from people seeking services from our organisations.

We must treat everyone with respect - the public we serve and the colleagues we work with. This requires being courteous and contributing to the smooth functioning of our workplaces by:

  • not discriminating against anyone, except as legally required to give effect to our organisation's functions
  • protecting the privacy of people accessing services
  • not harassing, bullying or otherwise intimidating members of the public or colleagues
  • respecting the cultural background of members of the public and colleagues
  • having proper regard for the safety of others
  • avoiding behaviour that may endanger or cause distress to colleagues
  • not allowing workplace relationships to adversely affect our work performance
  • valuing equality and diversity by understanding our differences.

We must promote in our organisations a respectful culture that ensures information and services are made available in a way that takes account of the particular interests, sensitivities and backgrounds of people seeking those services.

Our commitment to being fair does not constrain our duty to give effect to legislation. It is not unfair to enforce obligations imposed by law. Compliance action is not inappropriate just because offenders consider those measures to be unfair.

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We must be professional and responsive

Being professional requires us to have well developed personal integrity, to be committed to our organisational responsibilities and to be aware of the extent to which other interests may affect those responsibilities. Senior staff in our organisations must be particularly conscious of the constitutional framework within which we operate.

Many of us are part of professions that have membership codes of conduct. Such codes set out obligations that apply concurrently with the duty we have to our employing organisation. We must manage any differences with integrity, including discussing concerns with our manager. However, as all codes promote ethical behaviour, it is unusual for their provisions to create real conflict. If a conflict should arise, the State Services Commissioner will determine whether behaviour is appropriate in the circumstances of the particular State Services role rather than any professional code.

Our professionalism is shown by the way we treat people and respect their privacy. It is shown also in the way we meet the performance standards of our vocation and of the organisation we work for. Where our work involves research or innovative developments, we must have regard to obligations specified by relevant ethics committees.

We are encouraged to maintain links with outside organisations. This may involve us in public discussions about policy and services that risk capture by interest groups and the possible perception of undue influence. It is important that we are always aware both of our professional responsibilities to our organisation and of maintaining good relationships with the Government.

In a small country it is almost inevitable we will know personally some of the people we need to deal with on an official basis. It is very important to be alert to the implications of this.

Because we are in a position to influence the granting of benefits, exercising of discretions, shaping of resource allocations, making of enforcement decisions and development of policy, we must always act fairly and impartially, and record processes transparently.

Where government policy is broadly expressed, it is important that we respond consistently with the intended purpose, act with fairness and reasonableness, and reflect commitment to the spirit of service.

Our organisations have a duty to provide clear information to the public about services, entitlements and any obligations that service users may be required to meet. The information should be presented in plain English and, where helpful to users, in Māori and other languages. Our responsiveness should be shown by providing services within statutory timeframes, and seeking, when practicable, to shorten the delivery time and improve the quality of service.

See also Appendix 1: What it means to be professional in the State Services - an outline of professional behaviour

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We must work to make government services accessible and effective

Being accessible requires us all to take personal responsibility for responding in a way that is helpful to those using our services. We must be alert to the importance of liaising with other parts of the State Services to minimise barriers that may impede accessibility, and be innovative in finding how best community needs can be met.

Our actions must minimise the likelihood of any individual, group or community being disadvantaged. We must take care that the public has reasonable access to our organisation, and to information about services and entitlements. We must always consider customer-focused alternatives to traditional ways of providing services, and whether electronic transaction may be a preferred way for people to deal with us. The perceived fairness of our organisations may be influenced by the ease of public access to services.

Where appropriate, we should think about whether a professional interpreter will enable us to provide clearer, more accurate and more confidential support to people with limited English language skills.

Effectiveness flows from meeting objectives that our organisation has agreed with the Government and delivering benefits that the community expects from us. The challenge we always face is to be effective in situations where there is diverse demand. We must focus on getting the best results from public funding, i.e. value for money, and ensuring that what we do reflects the Government's priorities and policies. In many circumstances, effectiveness may come from working more closely with other organisations and exploring whether advantages and cost benefits can result from integrating activities.

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We must strive to make a difference to the well-being of New Zealand and all its people

As State servants, imbued with the spirit of service to the community, we are motivated to improve the well-being of New Zealanders. A concern for the well-being of others is central to the spirit of service. This involves each of us endeavouring to find more efficient, effective, economical and sustainable ways of making our professional contribution to the work of our organisation.

Our relationship with the public should be distinguished by goodwill and impartiality, coupled with trustworthiness, and a liberal interpretation of fairness and respect for the rights of others - in effect, the integrity standards of the code of conduct. It is by applying these standards to the work of government that we can make a difference to the betterment of New Zealand.

Our obligation to the communities we serve means that we should not turn a blind eye to wrong-doing. We must take responsibility to ensure our senior managers are advised of any serious integrity concerns we have about conduct shown by colleagues, and which could bring our organisation into disrepute. If we are concerned about the consequences of reporting serious misconduct, we should follow our organisation's Protected Disclosures Act policy.

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