Managing significant political interests

Agreements between the agency and staff with significant political interests will manage and mitigate the politically neutrality risks to their role and the agency, while supporting staff to exercise their individual political rights outside work.

Standing as a candidate for election is clearly a political activity with potential implications for employers, that needs to be notified and managed, in line with agencies’ policies and processes, like any other interest that may present a conflict with a State servant’s role.

Discussion between State servants with significant political interests and their manager, preferably at an early stage, about how the political activity may impact their work can help get agreement and resolve any uncertainties.

Top tier State servants, and those who interact regularly with Ministers, are particularly encouraged to discuss any significant political activity with their agency early on.

There is nothing wrong in having interests or activities outside work that may create a conflict with a work role, so long as they are identified and appropriately managed. A good management plan helps manage any political interests that may affect a State servant’s work role, and for election candidates, a good plan will help smooth a possible return to work post-election.

Such a plan is concerned with the risks relating to a particular interest. It does not relate to and shouldn’t affect career development or job satisfaction.

A good management plan will record the staff member and agency’s agreement as to how interests will be safely and transparently managed. It will support and protect the rights of the staff member, while safeguarding the political neutrality of the agency. Things to think about in creating a plan include:

  • the work role and seniority
  • interaction with Ministers
  • access to information, including policy information
  • if applicable, whether the role will be affected by standing for Parliament.

Agencies will have their own policies and processes for dealing with interests. Plans can be recorded in different ways and with varying levels of formality.

Agencies can seek advice from the State Services Commission in relation to making a plan to manage the risks associated with staff members’ political interests.

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