State servants standing for Parliament

State servants and board members of Crown entities have the same right to stand for election to Parliament as other New Zealanders. This right sits alongside the responsibility to act in accordance with the Standards of Integrity and Conduct and to maintain the politically neutral reputation of the State services.

Read Electoral Commission advice for candidates standing for election.

If standing for election, State servants must separate their political candidacy from their work role and their agency, and take care not to appear to use their State services’ employment to political advantage or act in a way that is inconsistent with the Standards of Integrity and Conduct. Examples include:

  • linking their campaign to their work role
  • appearing to use confidential government information or advice
  • carrying out personal attacks on Ministers
  • acting in other ways that may detrimentally affect the politically neutral reputation of the State services.

It is important to notify the employer of the candidacy and put an agreed management plan in place early on. A plan can help to manage the political neutrality risks to the agency in a way that is transparent and supports the politically neutral reputation of the State services.

Taking leave and returning to work

State servants must inform their chief executive once they are confirmed as an election candidate. The Electoral Act 1993 requires State servants who wish to stand for election as a member of Parliament to be placed on leave of absence for the purposes of his or her candidacy.

For State servants employed by Public Service departments, the New Zealand Police, the New Zealand Defence Force, the Education Service and the Cook Islands and Western Samoan Public Service, the Electoral Act 1993 requires those State servants to take a leave of absence from nomination day until the first working day after election day.

State servants who work for a statutory Crown entity, Crown entity company, an organisation on the 4th Schedule of the Public Finance Act 1989, or a company on Schedule 4A of the Public Finance Act 1989, may want to also consider taking leave to preserve the political neutrality of the State services, in discussion with their employer.

Sometimes it may be appropriate to take leave before nomination day. This can happen when the employer decides, after consulting the employee, that their candidacy materially affects either their ability to carry out their State services role satisfactorily or to be seen as independent in relation to performing the particular duties of their role. During the stand-down period, State servants can use any paid annual leave they are entitled to.

The Electoral Act 1993 provides that State servants who are elected to Parliament automatically  resign their role. Unelected candidates can return to work the first working day after polling day. However, in rare cases, a change of duties or role may be required.

Seeking advice

State servants can get advice and discuss their political activities or interests with their manager. State servants are entitled to bring a representative to these discussions.  

State servants can get advice from their manager whatever the level of intended political engagement outside work. There are advantages in discussing any concerns with your manager early on.

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