Almost half a million New South Wales public sector workers are set to receive mandatory ethics training. 

An initiative has been launched as part of a broader effort to introduce a revised ethics framework and a new public-sector-wide code of conduct. 

NSW Public Service Commissioner Kathrina Lo announced the changes with the release of the 2023 ‘State of the NSW Public Sector’ report.

Lo highlighted in her foreword the necessity of a comprehensive review and consultation process before issuing the new code of conduct. She says her aim is to ensure the code remains fit for purpose, reflecting the evolving needs and challenges of public service.

Data from an employee survey and a workforce demographic census, capturing responses from approximately 230,000 government workers, informed these updates. The report also outlines the distribution of the full-time equivalent workforce across various portfolios, with health and education leading in employment numbers.

Job satisfaction within the NSW workforce saw a slight increase in 2023, with 68.5 per cent of employees reporting contentment in their roles. Instances of employees feeling pressured to engage in misconduct also showed a minor decrease.

Lo said an apolitical public sector is needed for democracy's continuity and stability, especially during transitions of government. She cited the Government Sector Employment (GSE) Act, code of conduct, and the new Public Interest Disclosure Act as keystones for expected behaviour in the public service.

Lo says a focus for the upcoming year will be fostering a pro-integrity culture within the service. 

Amendments to the GSE Act in 2022 aimed to fortify the independence of secretaries from ministerial direction in their employer functions. Additionally, senior executives now require guidance before transitioning to private sector roles directly related to their public service responsibilities.

Lo said it is necessary to embed integrity into the culture, systems, and practices of all government agencies. This effort includes a suite of training programs offered through ANZSOG, e-learning modules, and the NSW Leadership Academy.

A statutory direction issued last year mandates government agencies to implement a sexual harassment policy by March 2024.