Code of Conduct - Policy

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1. Purpose and Objectives

The University is committed to comply with applicable laws and Standards, to promote a culture of fair and ethical behaviour and to encourage the reporting of corrupt practices, breaches of the law, and matters detrimental to the University or its reputation. UQ Senate and senior management will lead by example in actively promoting and complying with this Code of Conduct.

The Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 (Qld) applies to the University.  Consistent with the principles in that legislation, the University has adopted this Code of Conduct, which applies to all members of staff. 

Consistent with the Public Sector Ethics Act, this Code of Conduct sets out a number of Ethical Principles that the University requires staff members to comply with in the performance of their roles at the University.  The Ethical Principles are:

  • Integrity and impartiality;
  • Promoting the public good;
  • A commitment to the system of government; and
  • Accountability and Transparency.

Each ethical principle is underpinned by a number of values that describe the behaviour demonstrating the relevant principle.  These are discussed in this Code.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

Staff - all officers and employees of the University, persons acting in an honorary or voluntary capacity for, or at the University, and Senators of the University Senate.

Conflict of Interest is a situation where an actual, perceived or potential conflict exists:

  • An actual conflict involves a direct conflict between a staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University and a competing interest or obligation, whether personal or involving a third party.
  • A perceived conflict exists where it could reasonably be perceived, or give the appearance, that a competing interest could improperly influence the performance of a staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University.
  • A potential conflict of interest arises where a staff member has an interest or obligation, whether personal or involving a third party, that could conflict with the staff member’s duties and responsibilities to the University.

Enterprise Agreement - The University of Queensland Enterprise Agreement 2014 - 2017

  Maladministration means administrative conduct which is unlawful, arbitrary, improper, discriminatory or oppressive.

3. Policy Scope/Coverage

This Code of Conduct applies to all staff of the University.   

It is an expectation of the University that contractors will also act in accordance with this Code of Conduct while undertaking work for or on behalf of the University.

Staff members are directed by the University to comply with this Code of Conduct.

While the focus of this Code is supportive and educative, it seeks to regulate staff behaviour.  Where conduct by a staff member falls below the standards outlined in the Code of Conduct, such failure may amount to misconduct or serious misconduct and will be dealt with in accordance with the Enterprise Agreement. Where the breach could provide reasonable grounds for terminating a staff member’s employment, all legislative reporting obligations must be complied with.

The balance of this Code of Conduct discusses the Ethical Principles with which staff members must comply.

4. Ethical Principle 1 – Integrity and Impartiality

University staff occupy positions of trust.  It is therefore important that all staff act in a way that maintains public confidence in the integrity of the University.  Consistent with that objective, staff must:

(a)  be committed to, and to act in accordance with, the highest ethical standards;

(b)  accept and value their duty to act with objectivity, independence and impartiality;

(c)  show respect towards all persons including other members of staff, to students and to the general public;

(d)  acknowledge the primacy of the public interest and ensure that any conflict of interest issue is resolved or appropriately managed in accordance with the University’s Conflict of Interest Policy; and

(e) be committed to honest, fair and respectful engagement with the general public.

Examples of Ethical Principle 1 in Practice

4.1  Conflicts of interest

The University’s Code of Conduct requires that staff members avoid conflicts of interest (including actions that others could reasonably perceive as demonstrating a conflict of interest).  Where conflicts of interest do arise, staff are required to manage those conflicts appropriately in accordance with the University’s Conflict of Interest Policy

A conflict of interest may include circumstances involving:

  • a conflict between the staff member’s obligations to the University and a competing interest, including conflicts between the duties owed to the University and obligations owed to other organisations;
  • favouring a personal financial interest over a duty to the University;
  • decisions based wholly or partly on personal relationships rather than the duty to act impartially; and
  • receiving personal benefits from an individual or organisation where there is an expectation, explicit or implied, of favourable treatment.

Staff members are directed to the Conflict of Interest Policy for more detail on how to avoid and manage conflicts of interest.

4.2  Improper use of position

Staff members must use their position properly and honestly.

A staff member must not abuse a position of power. 

There can be an imbalance of power between a staff member and a student or between a staff member and those they supervise or manage including, for example, by reason of the fact that the staff member has the capacity to influence outcomes for a student or for a supervised staff member. 

Similarly, a personal or sexual relationship with a student or supervised staff member may create the potential for abuse of position and damage to the other individual.

Where a personal or sexual relationship develops which may lead to a conflict of interest or the potential for actual or perceived abuse of position, the staff member must notify their supervisor and must cease any decision-making role in respect of that student or staff member pending further direction from their supervisor.

Staff members must not use their position to offer students or other staff members a benefit as a result of any relationship the decision maker has with a student or another staff member.

4.3  Appropriate use of University information

Staff will gain access to information while engaged in teaching, research, administrative, technical and support activities. Some of this information may be confidential or private and should not be disclosed or used for personal gain.

Staff must respect the privacy of others and ensure that information of a personal nature is accessed and used only for University purposes and is not disclosed except in accordance with the University’s Privacy Management Policy.

Staff are required to act in accordance with PPL 1.60.02 Privacy Management.

Where a student confides in a staff member, the information should not be discussed with or revealed to others, except where this is necessary to take action or decisions in accordance with University policies and procedures.

4.4  External activity and public comment

Staff are free to engage in political, professional bodies, interest groups and charitable activities provided that this participation does not give rise to a conflict of interest or impede the performance of a staff member' s duties to the University.

In the exercise of academic and intellectual freedom staff must act in a professional and ethical manner and will not harass, vilify, intimidate or defame any other member of staff or any student.  Staff must, in exercising their academic and intellectual freedom, act in accordance with PPL 1.50.03 Intellectual Freedom, Academic Freedom

In making any public comment using the University’s name staff members must comply with PPL 1.50.06 Communication and Public Comment using The University of Queensland’s Name

Comments made by a staff member in a private capacity should not compromise or be perceived to compromise the staff member’s ability to carry out his or her duties or to implement an approved University policy.  Staff members must note the following:

  • if appropriate, a staff member may participate in public debates as a recognised expert or as a person with specialist knowledge;
  • where a staff member comments publicly in connection with trade union, political or interest group activities, every effort must be made to ensure that the opinions expressed are clearly represented as the staff member’s personal opinions and not those of the University.  

4.5  Responsible conduct of research

All staff who conduct research must comply with the principles of intellectual rigour, appropriate research methodologies and research ethics and must adhere to PPL 4.20.02 Responsible Conduct of Research.

Staff who conduct research are also required to comply with all relevant laws applying to the research they conduct.

Staff who conduct research will be subject to PPL 4.20.05 Research Misconduct.

4.6  Respect for persons

The University seeks to create an environment where all persons are treated equitably and with respect, encouragement and recognition.

Whilst not intended to detract from the concept and practice of academic or intellectual freedom (see PPL 1.50.03 Intellectual Freedom, Academic Freedom) the notion of respect for persons involves:

  • Courtesy and responsiveness in dealing with others.  The University regards a staff member's personal behaviour towards and interaction with others as a vital part of the duties of their position.  A collegial working environment is particularly encouraged.  Persistently rude or insulting behaviour towards other members of staff or students is unacceptable.
  • A responsibility of fairness in supervising other staff.  Staff who exercise supervision of other staff have particular responsibilities to treat staff fairly and to afford equality of opportunity, to maintain open and honest communication with them and to ensure that staff understand performance expectations relevant to their role.  (See PPL 5.70.01 Performance Appraisal for Professional and TESOL Language Teaching Staff  and PPL 5.70.15 Performance Appraisal for Academic Staff). 
  • Making decisions that are procedurally fair to people.  When making a decision, taking action of a discretionary nature or resolving a grievance, which may adversely affect a person's rights, liberties, interests or legitimate expectations, the principles of procedural fairness should be applied.  This means that persons affected should have the opportunity to respond to allegations or assertions made and to have a decision made without bias.
  • Avoiding unlawful discrimination, for example, on grounds such as gender, race and religion.  Staff should treat other persons equitably, in accordance with PPL 1.70.06 Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment.
  • Engaging in rational debate and allowing alternative points of view to be expressed. Rational debate presupposes open communication and the freedom to voice alternative points of view.  Staff are not to cut off rational debate by verbal abuse or physical violence or intimidation.  For example, criticism of ideas should be distinguished from personal criticism, and staff are not to verbally abuse, vilify or belittle students or other staff (including their supervisors) either personally or to others.
  • Avoiding behaviour that might reasonably be perceived as harassing, bullying or intimidating.  Staff must not engage in conduct that amounts to or may be perceived as harassment.  Staff are not to behave towards other persons in a manner that may reasonably be perceived as intimidating, overbearing or bullying (See PPL 1.70.02 Prevention of Sexual Harassment and PPL 1.70.06 Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment).
  • A responsibility of fairness and the encouragement of independent scholarly learning in the teaching role.  Academic staff involved in teaching or research training are to encourage the pursuit of independent scholarly learning, critical judgment, academic integrity and ethical sensitivity in their students, and should themselves demonstrate these qualities in their interactions with students.  Academic staff are to behave courteously towards students and should be sensitive to students' need for feedback and consultation.  The interests of students should be given primary consideration in the relationship of trust that exists between academic staff and their students.  Evaluations of students are to reflect each student's true merit (see PPL 3.10.02 Assessement, PPL 4.60.01 Eligibility and Role of Research Higher Degree Advisors and PPL 4.10.13 Intellectual Property for Staff, Students and Visitors).

4.7  Integrity in research commercialisation

In commercialising research results, staff must:

5. Ethical Principle 2 – Promoting the Public Good

Staff must:

  • perform their duties conscientiously and professionally, with proper diligence, care and attention and in a manner that gives effect to official decisions and policies of the University;
  • be accountable for their conduct and decisions;
  • use resources effectively, efficiently and economically; and
  • follow lawful and reasonable directions issued by their supervisor or other persons in more senior positions of authority. 

Examples of Ethical Principle 2 in practice

5.1  Using resources for University purposes

Staff members have a responsibility to use University resources and third-party-provided resources only for legitimate purposes and must take care to ensure all such resources are not wasted or abused. 

If staff members identify areas of inefficiency or waste they are encouraged to raise the issue with their supervisor. 

Expenditure of University funds must be consistent with University policy and be appropriately authorised.

5.2  Standards of performance

Staff should endeavour to maintain and enhance their skills and expertise and to keep up-to-date the knowledge associated with their particular field or area of work.

High standards of performance and a focus on client service are expected.

Outside work should not interfere with the performance of duties to the University.

5.3  Duty to take care

Staff are to exercise care in undertaking their duties, particularly where others will rely on advice or information offered.

Staff have a duty to take reasonable care to avoid causing harm (including physical harm) to anyone and should actively promote safe working practices and environments for everyone using University facilities.  For example, staff training others in workplace health and safety practices should make available written instructions, explain or give demonstrations; staff teaching, researching or assisting in laboratories must dispose of hazardous or infectious material, such as sharps, in an appropriate fashion, and ensure that students using laboratories are also instructed in safe handling and waste disposal procedures.

5.4  Use of substances

Staff should ensure that the personal use of alcohol or other drugs does not affect work performance or the safety and well-being of others. The University's Staff Assistance Scheme provides services to help staff resolve problems including problems with alcohol or substance abuse.

5.5  Disclosure of fraud or corrupt conduct

Fraud, corrupt conduct or maladministration is contrary to law and is to the detriment of the University community generally. Staff are therefore encouraged to report genuinely suspected or known instances of fraud, corrupt conduct or maladministration to appropriate University or external authorities

Where a person discloses impropriety or corrupt conduct to appropriate authorities, this must not result in harassment or other reprisal action by staff.

6. Ethical Principle 3 – Commitment to the System of Government

Commitment to the system of government is based on compliance with the rule of law and personal accountability.  Respect for the law and system of government does not limit or impede staff academic freedom even where this may involve criticism of policies or the practices of government.

Examples of Ethical Principle 3 in practice

6.1 Complying with the law

While undertaking University responsibilities or activities staff members must comply with the laws of the State and the Commonwealth.

6.2  Complying with the University's policies, procedures and decisions

Staff are required to comply with the University's policies and procedures.

6.3  Preventing fraud, corruption or maladministration

Staff must not engage in corrupt or fraudulent conduct or maladministration.

7. Ethical Principle 4 – Accountability and Transparency

Staff must perform their duties to the best of their ability with proper diligence, care and attention and be accountable for their actions and decisions.  

Staff must act in a transparent way by managing information as freely as possible within legal constraints and frameworks.

Examples of Ethical Principle 4 in practice

7.1 Acting in a professional and conscientious manner

Staff members are expected to carry out their duties in a professional, responsible and conscientious manner, and to be accountable for their conduct and decisions.

Staff members who work in a profession (e.g. health care practitioners) or who teach or undertake research related to professional activities should make themselves aware of any rules, codes of conduct or ethical standards relevant to the profession and aim to act in a way which satisfies both those professional standards as well as those standards required by the University.

7.2  Maintaining the confidentiality of information

Staff members must not disclose confidential information owned or managed by the University unless required and appropriately authorised to do so. Such confidential information should only be used for a permitted University purpose.

Staff members have a general duty to maintain the confidentiality, integrity and security of the University's information and of third-party information provided to the University under an obligation of confidentiality.

(a) Appropriate use of information and communications technology

Staff must comply with the University’s ICT policies.

Chief Operating Officer
Mr Greg Pringle
Chief Operating Officer
Mr Greg Pringle