Purpose and Scope
The public expects a high standard of conduct from all local government employees across Scotland and the purpose of this Code of Conduct is to set out the standards of conduct the Council and the public expect from employees and to do his unambiguously. The Council understands that the vast majority of its staff and exceeds the expected standards every working day. However, it is important for your protection and for that of the Council to ensure the required standards are clearly and simply set out.
The Code is based on the recommendations of the Nolan Committee on Standards of Conduct in Public Life and reflects the Council’s values and behaviours expected of employees.
This Code of Conduct applies to all staff employed by the Council and represents the Code of Conduct referred to in your contract of employment. Where employees have a professional Code of Conduct such as those published by the Scottish Social Services Council or the General Teaching Council this Code applies in addition to those professional codes.
Points to Note
- This Code is not designed to provide a large amount of detail and cannot cover every situation. Much of the detail is provided in other Council policies, guidance notes or some other form. Where employees are unsure or cannot locate the relevant guidance, they are encourages to ask their line manager for assistance or advice.
- This Code is also not designed to pinpoint areas where disciplinary action will apply or areas employees are expected to undertake in relation to their work performance. As this Codes sets out the standards of behaviour expected of Council staff it must also be made clear that breaches of these standards, in effect breaches of the Code of Conduct, could themselves result in disciplinary proceedings.
The full Code of Conduct document is also available.
The Seven Principles of Public Life
The general standards highlighted above underpin each employee of the Council conducts his or herself during the undertaking of their work. All staff are ambassadors for the Council, their Service and their profession and are expected to act in accordance with that responsiblity. Employees are required to always do their best in their jobs and always act to protect the interests of the Council. Employees are also expected to carry out all proper instructions and observe the rules, policies and procedures laid down to ensure efficient working and to secure the safety of themselves and others.
Employees are required to familiarise themselves with the Council’s Diversity & Equality policy which sets out the following vision for equalities in the Council:
“We are committed to adhering to the General Duty on public authorities contained in the Equality Act 2010. This is to have due regard when carrying out public functions to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations with regard to eight of the nine protected characteristics detailed in the Act – Age, Disability, Gender Reassignment, Pregnancy and Maternity, Race, Religion or Belief, Sex and Sexual Orientation. For Marriage and Civil Partnerships the duty is to eliminate unlawful discrimination only. This applies to the Council as an employer, service provider and in relation to any partnership working as well as in our public duties. We are also committed to adhering to the Specific Duties on public authorities as set by Scottish Ministers to enable the better performance of the General Duty.
We will create a culture that values all the differences that employees and communities bring, and which values openness, fairness, transparency and reward and recognition based on ability and achievement only.
We will continually strive to maintain an environment in which people from all backgrounds can live and work together harmoniously by challenging unlawful or unfair discrimination, prejudice, stereotyping, harassment and undignified and disrespectful behaviour.
We want everyone in Aberdeen to have an equal opportunity to work, learn and live free from discrimination and victimisation, including those who experience poverty and social disadvantage.”
Employees at all levels are expected to work towards that vision at all times.
Conflicts of Interest
- As an employee of Aberdeen City Council, you must not allow any private interest to influence your decisions.
- You must not use your position to further your own interests or the interests of others who do not have a right to benefit under the Council’s policies.
- You must not involve yourself in any decision on allocation of Council services or resources from which you or your family might benefit (e.g. allocation of council housing or assessment of housing benefit, or processing a planning application). You must refer such matters to your line manager immediately.
- Any private interest you have relating to the work of the Council must be declared to your line manager. The interest may be a financial one for you; one that a member of the public might reasonably think could influence your judgement; or a financial interest that close family members or people living in your household have in the work of the Council.
- If you are a member of an organisation or club, and membership might result in conflict of interests in relation to any aspect of your work with the council, you must declare this membership to your line manager.
- If you are a member of a Community Council and an issue arises that might result in a conflict of interest with your job role in the Council, you are required to withdraw from any discussion or involvement in that particular issue at the Community Council. If you are in any doubt about whether a conflict of interest might apply, you are required to discuss this with your Service Manager in advance.
- You must not use your position as an employee of the Council to lobby or attempt to unduly influence any elected member on any issue that is personal to you as a resident of Aberdeen or any issue relevant to your employment by the Council.
You must not engage in outside employment/activities that would conflict with your Council duties or affect your ability to perform your duties. Standing Order 50(1) governs other paid employment and decisions on employees wishing to take employment outside the Council are subject to it.
Declaring Offers of Hospitality or Gifts
Guidance on Appropriate Action
You are personally responsible for all decisions relating to any offers of gifts or hospitality that you receive in the course of your employment. If in doubt as to the proper course of action to take, you should seek the advice of your line manager. However, it must be stressed that responsibility for any decision to accept an offer remains with yourself, even where you receive advice or authorisation to accept.
The Code of Conduct adopted by the Council for its employees provides the following general approach:
- You should treat all offers of gifts or hospitality with caution;
- Where you receive any offers of hospitality or gifts, you should be sensitive to the timing of decisions, which affect the provider of the offer, e.g. during the tendering process for letting contracts or processing an application for a council service such as planning, licensing or housing;
- You should reject any offer where it might be seen as an intention to influence you in the discharge of your duties;
- You should accept an offer only if you feel that by doing so you can comply with these guidelines. If you feel that an offer should not be accepted, or that you have any doubt that it should be accepted, you should err on the side of caution and refuse the offer;
- Where you decline an offer of hospitality or a gift, you should do so courteously and inform the offer of the procedures and standards operating within the Council.
Guidance – Offers of Hospitality
Offers of hospitality may be extended to Council employees for a variety of reasons and whether such offers should be accepted will depend on a number of different factors. You should not accept offers of hospitality unless you can answer “Yes” to the following questions:
- “Can I justify this?”
- “Can I be sure I will not be subject to legitimate criticism?”
If you are in any doubt, you should seek the advice of your line manager.
You must follow the Council’s policy and guidance on declaring offers of hospitality, and the current procedures for having any offers authorised (under 5.11.2 of the financial regulations). You should only accept an offer of hospitality if there is a genuine need for you to participate in the event, to impart information or represent the Council in the community.
Guidance – Offers of Gifts
Similar considerations apply to dealing with the receipt of gifts. These may vary from items of token value where it would be churlish to refuse them, to items of significant value where the impression could be given that the offer is made either to influence your judgement or to reward you for services supplied or to be supplied to the offerer.
In general, only small gifts of token or low value (£50 or less), such as pens, diaries or calendars, may be accepted.
You must follow the Council’s policy and guidance on declaring offers of gifts, and the current procedures for having any offers authorised (under 5.11.2 of the financial regulations).
Declaring/Accepting Offers of Gifts and Hospitality
You must declare to your line manager all offers of hospitality or gifts (other than token gifts) and have them recorded in the register of gifts and hospitality.
Corruption and Bribery
It is important that you understand that it is a criminal offence for you corruptly to receive any gift, loan, fee, reward or advantage for doing or not doing anything, or for showing favour or disfavour to any person, in the course of your work with the Council. In addition, the provisions of the Bribery Act 2010 must be adhered to by employees at all times and in all respects. The Council will view any allegations of bribery as a matter of gross misconduct and if founded the employee can expect to be dismissed from employment.
The public expects you to carry out your duties in a politically neutral way, and this must be respected by councillors. This principle is underlined in the Protocol for Relations Between Councillors and Employees in Scottish Councils and applies to all employees. The political activities of a small number of employees are restricted by law. Those of you holding such politically restricted posts will have been notified individually in writing confirming the restrictions, which apply to your post. Advice on which posts are politically restricted and the restrictions applying to them is available from People and Organisation.
You must serve the Council and all councillors, regardless of their political outlook. The Chief Executive and senior officers have ultimate responsibility to help to ensure that the policies of the Council are implemented. This principle of equality of service to all councillors is also emphasised in the Protocol for Relations Between Councillors and Employees in Scottish Councils and applies to all employees.
You are required to implement the policies of the Council irrespective of your personal views.
If you are asked by a councillor to provide assistance with a matter which is clearly party political or which does not have a clear link with the work of the Council, you should politely refuse and inform the councillor that you are referring the matter to your line manager.
Appointment of Staff
If it is part of your job to participate in or advise on the appointment of staff, suppliers or consultants you should not allow any personal or other preference to influence your judgement. Instead, you should work within the set down rules/processes/procedures for the selection that will best serve the Council in accordance with policy requirements. You must not canvass the support of colleagues for any particular candidate and should resist and report any attempt by others to canvass your support.
All property provided to you to do your job by the Council remains the property of the Council and must only be used for Council work. It is your responsibility to look after Council property as carefully as possible.
You must observe carefully the Council’s rules for claiming allowances for performing approved duties and for the repayment of expenses incurred for travel/subsistence while doing business on the Council’s behalf.
The Council recognises the benefits of Information and Communications Technology (‘ICT’) and encourages the use of ICT equipment, systems and services in all aspects of its business. While email, the Zone intranet and the Internet are essential workplace tools, allowing employees unlimited access to these and other systems carries risks for employers.
The Council has therefore developed an ICT Acceptable Use Policy (ICT AUP) to set standards and provide users with clear instruction and guidance on what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable use. It is every ICT user’s responsibility to ensure they remain compliant with the ICT AUP. The ICT AUP can be found on the Zone but if employees have any concerns they are encouraged to speak to their line manager.
After Leaving Employment
Should you leave the Council for any reason either voluntarily or involuntarily you must return any property provided to you to undertake your job and ensure that any documents, data or any other information relating to your job at the Council is returned. You must not take any documents or data with you when you leave the Council.
During the course of your work, you are likely to have access to information that is private and confidential. You must ensure that such information is only made available to those who need to know it in carrying out Council work and that it is never disclosed to anyone else. Never give out confidential information over the phone unless the caller is known to you and is authorised to have access to the information. It is a breach of trust to use confidential information for personal advantage or the advantage of anyone known to you. Or to make unauthorised comment on the Council’s business which may bring the Council into disrepute.
Detailed information about Data Protection and Freedom of Information (Both available via Internal Network only) is available or if you have any doubts, employees are encouraged to check with their line manager.
Balancing Rights and Responsibilities
Citizens have the right to participate in the public life of our community. Employees have a responsibility to the Council as their employer and to all those they come into contact with in the course of their employment. Employees must take account of both their rights and responsibilities when interacting with others, including at times when they are not working. It is unacceptable to make, publish or post defamatory or generally unacceptable comments, views or information about the Council, its employees, clients or customers (including school pupils) in any medium including social networking sites. In addition, it is also unacceptable to publish any photographs of clients or customers in same without first obtaining formal permission. This applies even when you are at home on your own computer or using another electronic device. Guidance for employees on the use of social media is available here.
Employees are encouraged to familiarise themselves with those policies, procedures and standing orders relevant to their work to ensure they fulfill their duty to work within the boundaries of those frameworks. Most information can be found on the Zone but if employees cannot find the information they require, they should ask their line manager.
Your Rights as an Employee
As a citizen, you are entitled to express your views about the Council, provided you do not communicate publicly about your areas of professional responsibility and do not make use of any private information gained through your work with the Council. Nevertheless, you must not, in your work capacity, criticise the Council either through the media or at a public meeting or in any written communication with members of the public. You should also not make any comments in any media about your employment with the Council. Any views you wish to express on a Council policy issue or decision must be made as a resident of Aberdeen and not as an employee of the Council.
Access to your Councillor
As a citizen, you are entitled to raise with your councillor any complaint, which you have about the services of the Council. If your complaint concerns any aspect of your work with the Council, however, you must make use of the Council’s grievance procedures.
Fair and Reasonable Treatment at Work
You are entitled to expect fair and reasonable treatment from your colleagues, managers and from councillors. If you feel that you have been unfairly treated or have been discriminated against, you are entitled to make use of the appropriate council procedures.
Relevant Documents and Links
- Aberdeen City Council Customer Service Standards
- Guidance on Paid Employee outside the Council (Available via Internal Network only)
- Guidance on Contacts with the Media (Available via Internal Network only)
- Guidance on the Personal Use of Council Equipment and Resources (Available via Internal Network only)
- ICT Acceptable Use Policy (Available via Internal Network only)
- The Joint Procurement Unit (Available via Internal Network only)
- The Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002
- Data Protection (Available via Internal Network only)
- Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1995 Summary of Rights to the Public
- List of Standing Orders (Available via Internal Network only)
- Social Media Guidance for Employees
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