7 February 2011

The standards of integrity and conduct for the State Services require that “we avoid any activities, work or non-work, that may harm the reputation of our organisation or of the State Services”. This reflects our duties of trust and confidence to our organisation. What we do in our personal lives is of no concern to our employer unless it interferes with our work performance or reflects badly on the integrity or standing of the State Services.

The policies of most agencies preclude employees from taking part in public criticism of them. An interesting case relating to a US Federal Government employee challenges this established pattern.

A lecturer at the US Naval Academy missed out on a pay increase because he wrote a media article about positive discrimination in the Academy. His claim that this was a breach of his right to free speech led to a settlement and a statement “no federal employee should fear that he will be penalized on the job for expressing an opinion on controversial matters of public concern.”

In New Zealand, the sitution is may be more constrained. State Services Commission guidance about freedom of speech includes a balancing duty to an employing agency;

Freedom of expression
State servants have the same rights of political expression outside the workplace as ordinary members of the public.

Outside of work will usually include when on lunch and other breaks and for those with flexible working arrangements, at times when they are able to choose to be absent from work.

State servants, like any other employees, should not act in such a way that would bring their employers into disrepute.”