Employees' code of conduct

1 Introduction

1.1 Purpose of the code

To provide guidance for all employees of Wycombe District Council (the council) on the standards expected of them in the performance of their duties.

The code also reflects the council's values by which it operates and which underpin, in the broadest sense, what the employer, employees and the public can expect in terms of delivery of services and standards of conduct. These are:

  • Collaboration - we work together as one council team
  • Accountability - we take ownership and responsibility
  • Respect- we value others and treat them with respect
  • Value for money - we use our resources effectively and responsibly
  • Adaptability - we are flexible in how we work and deliver services
  • Challenge - we challenge ourselves and find better way of doing things

1.2 Status of the code

The code has been developed to take account of the council's corporate policies and encompasses the recommendations of the Nolan Committee's report on the Standards in Public Life which includes the "The Seven Principles of Public Life"; namely, selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

Where the council has a policy or protocol that provides more detail on specific issues, the name of the policy or protocol is in italics at the end of a section.

1.3 Scope of the code

The code applies to all council employees. However, some of the issues covered by the code will affect senior, managerial and professional employees more than it will others.

In addition, whilst the code is primarily aimed at employees, the council expects that any consultant, contractor, partner, temporary, casual and agency worker, who is engaged to carry out work or provide services on the council's behalf, will abide by the principles of the code. In the event that the code is breached, the council will give consideration to terminating the contract/arrangement between the consultant/ contractor/outside organisation etc and may seek compensation and, as appropriate, refer the matter to the police or other regulatory body.

1.4 Key Points

There are three key points to remember in all that you do. Ensure that your conduct:

  • is never influenced by personal gain
  • could not give anyone reason to question your motives
  • is always in line with council policies and procedures

2 Standards

The public is entitled to expect the highest standards of conduct from all council employees. The role of employees is to serve the council in providing advice, implementing policies and delivering services to the local community. Employees must perform their duties to the best of their abilities with honesty, integrity, impartiality and objectivity and contribute to the maintenance of high standards in public service.

An employee's off-duty hours are his/her personal concern but the employee should not put himself/herself in a position where duty and private interests conflict or where public confidence in the council's business would be weakened. The council will only take account of an employee's conduct outside of work (including presence on social media) in exceptional cases where it causes objective, significant, and direct harm to his/her ability to undertake the duties of their employment.

An example of such behaviour relates to employees facing criminal charges where the nature of the charges is directly relevant to his/her employment, for instance:- where arrest or conviction may result in a professional licence being taken away or driving offences if their job involves the use of a car / council vehicle. Circumstances such as these may result in disciplinary action being taken.

During the course of their work, employees should at all times be aware of and comply with relevant legislation, have read and understood the conditions of service under which they are employed and comply with any other specific guidelines issued by their service. If an employee is a member of any professional institute or association they are obliged to comply with any code and/or standards of practice pertaining to that organisation.

In addition, whilst the council does not apply a strict dress code, employees should be suitably dressed for their duties and responsibilities, including wearing council work clothes, if issued.

Employees will be expected, through agreed procedures and without fear of recrimination, to bring to the attention of their manager, Head of Service or Head of HR, as appropriate, any deficiency in the provision of service. Employees must report to the appropriate level of manager any impropriety or breach of procedure. A separate whistle blowing policy has been developed to enable staff and others to voice any concerns.

Disciplinary Policy and Procedure

Whistleblowing Policy and Procedure

3 Accountability

Employees are accountable to, and owe a duty to the council, as a whole, and must act in accordance with the principles set out in this code and council policies and procedures, recognising the duty of all public sector employees to discharge public functions reasonably and according to the law.

4 Political neutrality and restrictions

Employees serve the authority as a whole. It follows, therefore, that they must serve all councillors and not just those of any controlling group.

Some senior officers may be expected, within the council's guidelines to advise political groups. They must do so in ways which do not compromise their political neutrality.

All employees, whether or not politically restricted, must follow all lawful policies of the council and must not let their own personal or political opinions interfere with their work.

Where employees are politically restricted by reason of the post they hold or the nature of the work they do, they must comply with any statutory restrictions on their political activities.

Constitution - Member/Officer Relationships

5 Use of the council's financial and other resources

Employees must ensure that they use public funds entrusted to them in a responsible and lawful manner and in line with the council's financial regulations They must not utilise property, vehicles or other facilities of the council for personal use unless authorised to do so. At one level this means that equipment and stationery should not be used for personal use. At a higher level this means that in carrying out one's job care must be taken to protect the council's interests, money and property and faults in equipment or potential fraud by others should be reported.

Constitution - Financial Regulations

6 Intellectual property

Intellectual property is a generic term that includes inventions and patents, creative writings and drawings and records, documents and other papers relating to the finance and administration of the council. If these are created or acquired by the employee during the course of their employment then they will remain the property of the council.

Knowledge and information held by the council is equally the property of the council and must not be used for the purposes of "outside" employment.

7 Personal interest

Employees' private lives are their own concern but they must not allow their private interests or beliefs to conflict with their professional, public duty. They must not misuse their official position or information acquired in the course of their employment to further their private interests or the interests of others. In particular they must comply with:-

a. the council's rules in relation to the registration and declaration by employees of financial and non-financial interests,

b. the council's rules on the declaration by employees of hospitality or gifts offered to or received by them, from any person or organisation doing or seeking to do business, or otherwise benefiting or seeking to benefit from a relationship with the council. Employees must not accept benefits from a third party unless authorised to do so by the council, and

c. any service specific declarations, for example, planning; in relation to making or commenting on planning applications or declarations in relation to revenues and benefits etc

In line with the council's guidance on registration of interests, gifts and hospitality, employees are required to formally notify their line manager of any personal interests by completing a standard form which will be passed to the Head of Democratic, Legal and Policy to be held on a "Register of Interests".

Constitution - Planning Matters Guidance Note

Registration of Interests, Gifts and Hospitality

8 Corruption

Employees must be aware that it is a serious offence for them to corruptly receive or give any gift, loan, fee or reward or advantage for doing, or not doing anything or showing favour or disfavour to any person in their official capacity. In the event that any such allegation should be made it will be investigated and may be subject to disciplinary action.

In addition, all employees and associated persons acting on behalf of the council, are prohibited from offering, promising, giving or accepting any bribe either within the council or from or to a third party organisation, in accordance with sections 1 and 2 of the Bribery Act 2010. Such bribes may relate to the improper performance of duties to gain advantage for the council or personal advantage, financial or otherwise, for the individual, or anyone connected with the individual.

Anti-Fraud and Corruption Policy

9 Appointment of staff and other employment matters

Employees involved in appointments should ensure that they are made on the basis of merit. It would be unlawful for an employee to make an appointment which was based on anything other than the ability of the candidate to undertake the duties of the post. In order to avoid any possible accusation of bias, employees should not be involved in an appointment where they are related to an applicant or have a close personal relationship outside work.

Similarly, employees should not be involved in decisions relating to discipline, promotion or pay adjustments for any other employee who is a relative, partner or close friend.

10 Outside commitments

Those employees whose post is graded 5 or above, shall not engage in any other employment (paid or unpaid) without the prior approval of their head of service, in line with individual contracts of employment. This restriction is not intended to prevent employees from participating in social or charitable activities provided the involvement does not affect their ability to carry out their duties or present a potential conflict of interest.

11 Relationships with members, contractors, the public and other employees

The council is committed to creating an environment in which employees can work together in harmony and expect employees to behave in accordance with the council's values.

Council employees are expected to deal with the public, members, contractors and other employees courteously, sympathetically, efficiently, with respect and without bias.

Mutual respect between council employees and members is essential to good local government. Close personal familiarity between employees and individual councillors can damage the relationship and prove embarrassing to other employees and councillors, and should therefore be avoided.

Employees who have or enter into a personal relationship with a councillor or have a relationship or "interest" with a contractor or potential contractor of the council, should declare this to their line manager and ensure that the declaration is included on the corporate 'Register of Interests'.

Finally, with the public interest in mind, the council will take appropriate and commensurate action when close personal relationships at work (such as relatives or partners) with members, contractors or employees have an actual or potential impact on service provision or where there is an actual or potential conflict of interest.

Such action may include:

  • re-arranging the work
  • re-arranging the reporting relationship
  • moving one of the parties to another office, or
  • voluntary redeployment to another service.

In such circumstances, employees have a responsibility to disclose this relationship to their head of service who will consider the implications and any action that may need to be taken.

Protocol on Member/Officer Relationships

12 Private transactions

Those employees who have private dealings with contractors and other suppliers of goods or services should avoid transacting any kind of private business with them by any means other than normal commercial channels. No favour or preference as regards price or otherwise which is not generally available should be sought or accepted.

13 Treatment of information/confidentiality

Openness in the dissemination of information and decision making is the norm in the way the council functions. However, certain information may be confidential or sensitive and therefore not appropriate to a wide audience. Where confidentiality is necessary to protect the privacy or other rights of individuals or bodies, information should not be released to anyone other than a member, relevant council employee or other person who is entitled to receive it, or needs to have access to it for the proper discharge of their functions. Nothing in this code can be taken as overriding existing statutory and common law obligations to keep certain information confidential, or to divulge certain information. If in doubt as to whether someone is entitled to certain information, please seek advice from the District Solicitor.

14 ICT security and usage and data protection

Use of the council's equipment, systems and network is provided as part of an individual's role. It is essential that the data that is processed and stored and the systems used are adequately secured against risks such as operator errors, theft of equipment, unauthorised access to or copying or programmes or use of unauthorised software on council systems.

The council does allow for personal use of email and the internet providing it does not interfere with work commitments, normally takes place during breaks or outside of working hours, does not make unreasonable use of limited council resources and is legal and ethical.

It is important when using ICT systems for example social media sites, whether in a personal or professional capacity that you do not submit content that is derogatory, inappropriate or have the potential to bring the council into disrepute and/or causes objective, significant or direct harm to an individual's ability to undertake the duties of their employment, as this may result in disciplinary action being taken against you.

Information Security Acceptable User Guidelines

Data Protection Protocol

Social Media - guidelines for staff

15 Whistleblowing

In the event that a council employee becomes aware of activities which he/she believes to be illegal, improper, unethical or otherwise inconsistent with this code, the employee should report the matter, in the first instance to an appropriate senior manager; acting in accordance with their rights under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

Whistleblowing Policy and Procedure

16 Equality

All employees have a duty to comply with the council's equal opportunities policy and to promote equal opportunities within their own spheres of responsibility

Equality Framework

17 Health and safety

The council is committed to promoting a healthy and safe working environment. Each employee is expected to know and to follow all appropriate health and safety requirements and has an obligation to take reasonable care for his/her own safety and for the safety of others who may be affected by his/her acts/omissions

WDC health and Safety Organisation and Responsibilities

18 Breaches of the code

Failure to comply with this code and associated council policies may result in disciplinary action being taken

Disciplinary Policy and Procedure