Today’s correspondent raises an issue in turn raised by NSW Ambulance. The Ambulance Service has sent out a notice reminding staff of the need to obtain approval for secondary employment ‘including Short Term Rental Accommodation (STRA)’. The memo/email goes onto say:
When applying, employees must be able to show that it will not interfere with their ability to satisfy the conditions of their employment with NSW Ambulance.
- the employee must be available for rostered and on call shifts as required, and at the time required by NSW Ambulance
- they must arrive at work fit to perform the full range of duties and functions of their position efficiently for the entire shift or work period
- the company, business, organisation or person that employees propose to work for should have no association with NSW Ambulance. This will avoid ethe risk of confidential information being used for commercial or other advantage by the employee.
There must also be no conflict of interest with you [sic] other employment
My correspondent says:
The main talking point between the staff who received it is, is short term rental accommodation an investment or secondary employment. If it is secondary employment would the same disclosure / requirements for permission be applicable to all public officials including politicians?
I am referred to a statement on outside employment from the NSW Independent Commission against Corruption – ICAC.
Operating a short term rental accommodation is not merely an investment if one has to actually operate the business. I can understand Ambulance’s concern. If a paramedic is running Short Term Rental Accommodation will they be able to turn up if they need to clean the apartment between guests or take time off to welcome people?
But let us look to the law. The Government Sector Employment Regulation 2014 (NSW) r 7 says:
(1) A Public Service employee is not to undertake any other paid work without the permission of the agency head.
(2) This clause does not apply to a person who is:
(a) employed in casual employment, or
(b) working part-time,
during the period that the person is not required to perform duties in the Public Service, but only if the performance of those duties is not adversely affected and no conflict of interest arises.
What is ‘other paid work’ is not defined. Presumably there is some leeway in department heads to define what they consider relevant paid work and to take different approaches depending on a particular employee’s duties and the potential impact of the secondary employment.
A quick google search identifies several policies with multiple government departments. As an example the NSW Education Private and Secondary Employment Procedure says that secondary employment includes ‘engaging in or undertaking any commercial business, whether as principal, agent, partner or employee’. That would include operating a short-term rental accommodation business.
Does it apply to politicians? Politicians are not employees so public service rules are not applied to them. But there are obligations on politicians not to have a conflict of interest and to disclose their interests. The Code of Conduct for Members of the Legislative Assembly says:
3. Use of public resources
The use of public resources should not knowingly confer any undue private benefit on the Member or, on any other person, or entity…
6. Disclosure of interests
Members shall fulfil conscientiously the requirements of the House in respect of the Register of Disclosures by Members.
The Constitution (Disclosures by Members) Regulation 1983 (the Regulation) requires that Members lodge regular returns, disclosing certain interests such as real property, interests and positions in corporations, income, debts and gifts…
7 Conflicts of interest
Members must take reasonable steps to avoid, resolve or disclose any conflict between their private interests and the public interest. The public interest is always to be favoured over any private interest of the Member.
What follows is that the ‘the same disclosure / requirements for permission [are] applicable to all public officials including politicians’.
This blog is made possible with generous financial support from the Australasian College of Paramedicine, the Australian Paramedics Association (NSW), Natural Hazards Research Australia, NSW Rural Fire Service Association and the NSW SES Volunteers Association. I am responsible for the content in this post including any errors or omissions. Any opinions expressed are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or understanding of the donors.
The Government Sector Employment Regulation does apply to employment, including part-time and casual work, as these are included specifically as ‘other paid work’. I’d argue that operating short term rental accommodation is not, however, in the nature of employment, but an investment, and hence is not ‘other employment’. Hence, the Ambulance Service should not be seeking any declaration or disclosure on short term rental accommodation from its employees. I’d be arguing that the request from the Ambulance Service is an unlawful imposition on its employees, if I was an Ambulance Service employee (I’m not). I have, however, worked in a NSW Government State Owned Corporation in the past, where management has tried the same argument, and staff have refused to disclose details of commercial businesses and investments they have outside their employment. One recalcitrant employee’s pithy response to management was ‘you employ me, you don’t own me’.
I suggest that whether something should be classed as a ‘business’ or an ‘investment’ depends on how much work it involves. If a person owns a property that someone else manages so all the owner gets is a monthly statement showing the income less expenses and a cheque then that may not be outside employment. But if the owner manages the bookings, welcomes the guests, cleans and manages the property then they are employed in their own business and that could impact upon their ability to perform their ambulance duties. There is a difference between owning shares in a company and being actively involved in its management.
As to whether the operation of short term employment is outside the scope of ‘other employment’ it would need someone to take the matter before the industrial commission for a definitive answer.