Type: Conduct

Classification: Operational
Policy Number: SCS2021007
Version: 3.0
Updated:  September 2021

This Code of Professional Conduct (the Code) sets out the standards of conduct, professional and personal behaviour that Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) requires of its employees in upholding and encouraging a safe, supportive, ethical, productive and harmonious workplace.

As a Catholic workplace SCS seeks to create caring and faith filled environments where Gospel teachings affirm the highest standard of ethical conduct.

Staff members have a responsibility to uphold the standards contained in the Code, including upholding the teachings and values of the Catholic Church and to avoid by word, action or public lifestyle, behaviours which are contrary to those teachings and values.

The Code does not attempt to provide a detailed and exhaustive list of what employees can or should do in every situation but instead sets out standards of guidance and expected behaviour.

The Code applies to all Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) staff and other persons engaged to undertake work for SCS. In this policy staff means all employees of SCS, members of religious orders engaged in schools, volunteers, trainees (including practicum teachers), interns, and committee members. This policy is also applicable to contractors and consultants.

All staff must familiarise themselves with the Code and act in line with the conduct described in it.

Failure to comply with the responsibilities and obligations outlined in the Code may result in disciplinary action being taken, including termination of employment, termination of contract/s, notification to external agencies and/or criminal charges.

Staff must act lawfully and comply with all legislative, contractual and industrial requirements while engaged by SCS. Staff must also comply with SCS’ policies and guidelines and follow all reasonable and lawful directions given by SCS.

Staff are required to:

  • be honest and act with integrity at all times
  • be objective, fair, impartial and accountable
  • respect the dignity, rights and views of others
  • listen and seek to understand different points of view (this does not necessarily mean agreeing with the point of view)
  • act respectfully at all times, including respecting cultural, ethnic and religious differences
  • acknowledge the genuine contributions that others make
  • express constructive feedback considerately and in a moderate tone
  • not disparage, harass, bully or discriminate against colleagues, students, parents or community members
  • be courteous, fair, sensitive and considerate to the needs of others
  • actively assist in managing workplace conflict that personally affects them or staff members under their supervision to create positive and constructive outcomes
  • respect physical boundaries with colleagues

5.1 Productivity and performance

Staff are required to:

  • maintain a high standard and quality of work
  • never plagiarise the work of others
  • maintain and develop knowledge and understanding of their area of expertise
  • continuously seek to improve work performance and bring about improvements in the workplace
  • exercise care, responsibility and sound judgement when carrying out their duties
  • dress appropriately, professionally and in a manner that maintains respect and upholds the good reputation of SCS and is appropriate for child related work. Please note, body piercings (other than ear piercings) and tattoos are not to be visible while working
  • ensure procedural fairness is followed in all processes
  • maintain adequate documentation to support any professional decision making

5.2 Health and safety

Staff are required to:

  • take reasonable care of their safety and health in the workplace
  • take reasonable steps that their acts/omissions do not adversely affect the health and safety of others, including colleagues, students, parents/carers and members of the wider school community
  • comply and cooperate with any reasonable instruction, policy or procedure
  • ensure they immediately report any injury, incident, hazard or near miss to their direct line manager
  • ensure they do not carry out their duties under the influence of alcohol, any illegal substance, or any drug which impairs work performance or poses a safety risk to themselves or others
  • ensure they do not use tobacco, e-cigarettes or vape while at work and/or in the presence of students
  • ensure they do not drink alcohol in the presence of students or at work. Please note the drinking of alcohol at work is allowed in certain limited circumstances, such as a Christmas party, but only where it has been approved by the relevant Principal or Director in advance and if no students are present

5.3 Integrity

Staff are required to:

  • not ignore work duties or waste time during working hours
  • not take or seek to take improper advantage of any information gained in the course of employment
  • not take improper advantage of their position to benefit themselves or others
  • not allow personal political views/affiliations or other personal interests to influence or conflict with the performance of duties or exercise of responsibilities

5.4 Communications and reporting

Staff are required to:

  • report to SCS any instance where they believe they, or anyone within their workplace, has breached SCS policies, directions or guidelines, including this Code
  • not make or publish inappropriate or disparaging public comments about SCS, including on their personal social media, or make comments, including political commentary that could be perceived to be attributed to their role within SCS
  • use all forms of communication, including social media, responsibly and appropriately and in line with the Ethical Behaviour outlined in section 4 above
  • maintain confidentiality and privacy where required

6.1 Required behaviours

Staff are required to:

  • promote the safety, welfare and wellbeing of students
  • comply with their duty of care including ensuring adequate supervision of students at all times
  • maintain professional relationships and ensure appropriate and respectful communication with students and parents, including outside the workplace and on SCS social media platforms
  • abide by the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers for teacher-qualified staff
  • inform their Principal or manager immediately if they are charged or convicted of a criminal offence , or have a reportable allegation made against them (as defined in the SCS Child Protection Policy).
  • inform their Principal or manager of any family or friendship relationships with students and ensure there is no conflict of interest involving family members of students of close friends
  • abide by SCS child protection policies and guidelines, including ensuring they fulfil their mandatory reporting obligations including reportable employee conduct, risk of significant harm notifications and any possible criminal activity involving children

6.2 Prohibited behaviours

Staff must not:

  • have a sexual relationship with a student
  • provide or permit students’ use of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, e-cigarettes, vaping or pornography
  • verbally assault a student or create a climate of fear
  • invite students to join their personal social networking sites
  • accept an invitation to join a student’s personal social networking site
  • transport a student in their vehicle unless they are family members, or permission has been granted by the parents/carers and the Principal or in an emergency situation (in which case a second adult should accompany the staff member and the Principal should be notified as soon as possible thereafter)
  • use sexual innuendo or inappropriate language with students including telling adult jokes or discussing topics of a sexualised nature
  • share inappropriate material with students either verbally or via technology platforms such as an Ipad, mobile phone, social media etc
  • give students gifts that are not in accordance with the school’s general practices or that will lead them to think there is a special relationship with the staff member
  • physically enter a student’s personal space without an appropriate professional reason
  • engage in any unwarranted or inappropriate physical contact with students
  • use corporal punishment in any circumstances or implement behaviour management strategies that are demeaning and/or age inappropriate
  • develop or allow to develop a relationship with any student which could be interpreted as being personal rather than professional
  • be alone with a student where there is no professional reason to do so. Staff should remain visible to others where possible
  • take or share photographs/video etc of students without an appropriate professional reason or retain such images on their personal device after they have been uploaded to the school/ system database
  • make personal comments or address students in an overly familiar way (e.g. pet names)
  • engage in conversation with students on personal or intimate matters or share personal information, materials or belongings
  • be transported within a student’s vehicle without a professional reason
  • attend parties or socialise with students
  • invite students to their home or attend a student’s home without an appropriate professional reason and without the consent of the parents/carers and the Principal

It is acknowledged that in some instances, such as a staff member being close family friends with a student’s parents or their child being close friends with a student at the school, some of the above behaviours may occur as a consequence of those relationships, not for a professional reason e.g. driving their own child and their friend to a private sporting competition on Saturday morning.

Where this is the case, a staff member may be exempt from some of the above restrictions. Given this, the staff member should disclose such relationships to their Principal or manager, so that they may be considered to see if an exemption applies.

Extreme caution must be taken before a staff member considers entering into a relationship with a former student over the age of 18 years. This behaviour may be found to be sexual misconduct if it was established the staff member used their position to develop the relationship with the student prior to them leaving the school and is strongly discouraged.

The work of SCS must not be compromised or affected by personal interest. A conflict of interest arises when a staff member is in a position to be influenced, or appear to be influenced, by private interests when doing their job.

A conflict of interest includes any circumstance, whether real, potential or perceived arising from a conflict between the performance of a staff member’s professional duties with SCS and their personal interests.

A conflict can arise where there is a reasonable expectation of a personal benefit, direct or indirect, for a staff member that could influence the performance of their duties. This benefit may be financial or non-financial.

How to behave and report situations of conflict of interest

Staff members must take suitable measures to avoid, or appropriately deal with, any situation or relationship they may have where a conflict of interest could, directly or indirectly, compromise the performance of their duties.

This includes promptly reporting any conflict of interest (including potential or perceived) to their Principal or manager as soon as the staff member becomes aware of it. The conflict, and how it has been mitigated or eliminated, is to be recorded on the Conflict of Interest & Gift/Benefits Register located on the SCS Governance Intranet page.

Questions to ask yourself to identify whether a conflict exists

A staff member may ask themselves the following questions to assist in identifying whether a situation or relationship is potentially a conflict of interest:

  • Do I have personal interests that may conflict, have the potential to conflict or could be perceived to conflict with, my position at SCS?
  • Could there be benefits for me now, or in the future, that could cast doubt on my objectivity in acting in the best interests of SCS?
  • How will my involvement in the decision or action be objectively viewed by others?
  • Does my involvement appear fair and reasonable in all the circumstances?

If a staff member is working at a school in which their child is enrolled, the staff member and Principal/manager are to ensure appropriate practices are employed to mitigate any conflict including the staff member not working directly with their child, not being involved in any assessment, reward or benefit and not being involved in any management of discipline of their child.

Staff members with children at any SCS school are to ensure any interactions about their children are in the capacity as a parent only and through the appropriate parent channels.

Staff members are also to recuse themselves from any action/decision that may involve a family member. Furthermore, a family member cannot be engaged in the same school or directorate as a staff member without the written approval of the Director, People & Culture.

Receiving a gift or benefits can represent a conflict of interest, including giving rise to a perception of bias.

Staff members therefore must not solicit or accept gifts, benefits or hospitality which might reasonably be seen to, either directly or indirectly, compromise or influence their professional duties with SCS. This could occur by creating a sense of obligation or undermining a staff member’s impartiality.

Always consider the value and purpose of a gift or benefit before making any decision to accept it. Under no circumstances, should staff members solicit or accept money.

Examples of gifts and benefits and how they should be treated

Gifts of a nominal value, or moderate acts of hospitality offered as a genuine thank you by a parent/carer or client, may be personally retained as long as they have not been solicited by the staff member or could be seen to have compromised or unduly influenced the staff member’s professional duties with SCS.
An example of an acceptable gift would be parents or students offering a small gift to a teacher at the end of the school year. All gifts of a value greater than $50 must be recorded on the Conflict of Interest & Gift/Benefits Register located on the SCS Governance Intranet page and discussed with your Principal or Manager prior to acceptance.

Gifts or hospitality offered as an inducement to purchase, provide information or treat someone favourably are not acceptable regardless of their monetary value and must be returned.

Examples of inducement include a parent/carer offering a gift or benefit that could be seen as attempting to obtain favourable treatment for a student or a recruitment agency offering theatre/sporting tickets for each temporary person employed.

If a staff member is unsure whether it is appropriate to accept a gift or benefit, they should seek advice from their Principal, Manager or the Governance team within the Governance & Legal directorate.

Staff members employed on a full-time basis must seek and obtain approval in writing from their Director or Principal prior to engaging in any secondary employment or business activity, including employment with a family company. Approval must be obtained annually and a record maintained by the school or Director.

Part-time and casual staff members must inform their Principal or Manager of secondary employment and also seek approval in writing from their Director or Principal. This is required if the employment may result in actual or perceived conflicts of interest that could adversely impact on the staff member’s ability to perform their duties with SCS including work health and safety concerns, or where the secondary employment may affect SCS’ financial position, services, clients or standing in the community. This would include working in another SCS or non-SCS school.

Private tutoring/external coaching will not be approved where it involves student clientele of the school where the employee works.

Approval for secondary employment is still required when staff members are on leave, including periods of leave without pay.

Staff members must use SCS’ resources economically and ethically. Such resources include money, credit and fuel cards, facilities, equipment (e.g. phones, computers, ipads), vehicles, services (e.g. internet) and any other property which is owned or is the responsibility of SCS. Staff members also have a duty to ensure SCS’ resources are used only for their intended purpose, are well maintained and secured against theft or misuse.

Staff members are fully accountable for the use of SCS work time and resources. Staff members must not use SCS work time or resources for an outside interest, secondary employment or personal gain, such examples include the development of a new commercial idea or writing a book.

Limited private use of SCS’ resources may be permitted in some cases, however, this should be short, infrequent and should not interfere with the staff member’s work.

Staff members have a duty to report to SCS any improper use, waste or abuse of resources.

Staff members have a duty to report to SCS any illegal or improper conduct including child abuse and pornography, corrupt or fraudulent conduct or inadequate administration or accountability. Staff members who make such reports in good faith are entitled to seek support and protection when making such disclosures and to be notified of the action taken in relation to the disclosure.

In the first instance, reports can be made to your Principal, Manager or Supervisor. If a staff member is concerned that they may suffer reprisal or detrimental treatment as a result of making a disclosure, they may make a disclosure in a safe and confidential environment in accordance with SCS Whistleblower Policy.

Staff members must not divulge, either during employment or after, any confidential or personal information gained as a staff member of SCS and only use such information for its intended work- related purpose.

Staff members must respect SCS intellectual property. Anything developed or created, either alone or in collaboration with colleagues while employed at SCS, remains the intellectual property of SCS.

Staff members must also ensure they comply with copyright legislation and regulations.

SCS only provides written Statements of Service and does not permit references to be provided on behalf of the organisation. Requests to staff members for verbal or written reference may therefore only be provided in an individual’s personal capacity, and consequently must not be made on SCS or school letterhead or email.

Staff approached by external organisations to give a testimonial, in their capacity as an employee of SCS, on a product or service, are to seek the approval of their Principal or Director prior to providing the testimonial.

If you are unsure of any aspect of the Code, consult your Principal or Manager, or for more information contact the Governance team within the Governance & Legal Directorate on (02) 9568 8215 or governance@syd.catholic.edu.au.

If you require advice or wish to report a possible breach of the Code please contact People and Culture via phone on 9568 8297 or email via pcservices@syd.catholic.edu.au.

  • Policy Number: SCS2021007
  • Document Rescinds/Replaces: SCS2021005
  • Policy released: 10 September 2021
  • Review by: 10 September 2023
  • Approved by: Executive Director
  • Document owner: Director, Governance & Legal and Director, People & Culture
Printable PDF – Code of Professional Conduct