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Code of Conduct

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As public servants, we are accountable to the President of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and to Parliament, and through them to the Canadian people as a whole. Our behaviour must, at all times, show that we are worthy of their trust and confidence to carry out the responsibilities of the Agency.

As an agency with a public health role, we have a special obligation to ensure that everything we do in our work, whether in an administrative, scientific, inspection or other capacity, ultimately contributes to the protection of the safety of the Canadian food system and the health of Canada's plants and animals.

The principles set out in the CFIA's Code of Conduct (the Code) are intended to:

  • help employees understand those rules and standards of conduct that are necessary to achieve the goals and objectives of the CFIA; and
  • provide direction in situations where the right course of action may not always be clear.

The Code applies to employees at all levels of the CFIA. If you are a manager, however, you have additional obligations. As a leader in the CFIA, you are expected to set an example by demonstrating high ethical and professional standards in your own conduct.

The Code is designed to assist you in fully appreciating the ethical issues that relate to your work with the CFIA. It complements the Public Service values and the CFIA values that guide your decision making and behaviours. By adhering to the Code, you will uphold our tradition of professionalism and contribute to the quality of life enjoyed by all Canadians.

Message from the President and Executive Vice-President

We are pleased to present the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Code of Conduct.

Directed by our mission and our vision, we all have a duty to maintain the trust and confidence of Canadians. One of the fundamental ways we do this is by adhering to the Code of Conduct.

The reputation and credibility of the Agency are vital to our ability to deliver our mandate. As such, we behave, internally and externally, in a way that trust is preserved.

Given the scope of the CFIA's work, there will be times when you are faced with a challenge that requires a difficult decision. The Code is designed to help us understand rules and standards of conduct, and to provide us with guidelines for fulfilling our duties. It outlines expected behaviours in a number of areas, including contact with the public, use of government property and conflict of interest.

As the largest science-based regulatory body in Canada, it is important that our employees understand what is expected of them. The Code of Conduct and the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code are closely linked to the CFIA's values and ethics and will help guide you in making sound ethical decisions, particularly when faced with challenging and/or conflicting situations.

It is a priority for us and the senior management team that the CFIA is an organization known for its values and its ethical conduct. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the Code of Conduct and related information, and to make it a ready tool that can help guide you in your day-to-day roles and responsibilities with the CFIA.

Carole Swan
George Da Pont
Executive Vice-President

Effective date

The effective date of this Code is February 26, 2009.

Policy statement

The CFIA's policy is to promote ethical behaviour consistent with the values of the CFIA and the Public Service.


The Code applies to all employees of the CFIA.

Your accountability as an employee

As an employee, there are times when you may be faced with questions of what is right or wrong or fair, and how to conduct yourself. The Code provides guidelines for when you are acting on behalf of the CFIA.

It is your responsibility to become familiar with the contents of the Code, to abide by it, and to conduct yourself in a manner that reflects the overall spirit of the Code and the values of the CFIA and of the Public Service.

At some point, you may find yourself in an ethical dilemma. The policies referred to in this Code are available to you on the CFIA website as well as through your Area Human Resources office. If you are ever unsure of how to act, discuss the matter with your supervisor. Advisors (human resources, finance, administration and security) are also available to assist you.

Our vision, mission and values

Our Vision

To excel as a science-based regulator, trusted and respected by Canadians and the international community.

Our Mission

Dedicated to safeguarding food, animals and plants, which enhances the health and well-being of Canada's people, environment and economy.

Our Values

As employees of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency…

We value scientific rigour and professional and technical competence. These play a crucial role in our decision making. We do not manipulate science to achieve a desired outcome but acknowledge that other factors must be taken into account in this decision making.

The reputation and credibility of the Agency are vital to our ability to deliver our mandate. As such, we behave, internally and externally, in a way that trust is preserved.

We are proud of the contributions we make to the quality of life of Canadians. We value dedication and responsiveness from all employees day to day and, particularly, during an emergency.

We value competent, qualified and motivated personnel, whose efforts drive the results of the Agency.

To develop effective policies and strategies, we value the perspectives of the stakeholders who are affected by our decisions.

We maintain our regulatory independence from all external stakeholders. We have the courage to make difficult and potentially unpopular decisions and recommendations, free from personal bias.

We are committed to our physical and psychological well-being.

Ethical decision making and conduct

When contributing your part to the mission of the CFIA, please keep in mind that the key to ethical decision making and good conduct is to abide by the laws affecting the CFIA (for example, Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act, Canadian Human Rights Act, Financial Administration Act, Meat Inspection Act, Canada Agricultural Products Act), the Public Service values, the CFIA values, the Code of Conduct and its related policies.

Your expected conduct

As an employee of the CFIA, you are accountable to your employer and to the public for the way you conduct yourself. You are expected to carry out your assigned duties effectively and conscientiously in accordance with instructions, to reasonable performance standards and within allotted time frames.

At times, you may experience personal problems which may affect your job performance. The CFIA offers assistance through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). If you encounter such difficulties, you are encouraged to seek EAP assistance.

You are encouraged to be innovative and to participate in decision making through positive and constructive means. You may question policies, procedures or instructions but are normally expected to do so through your supervisor. Disagreement with a policy, procedure or instruction does not mean that employees can neglect their duties. In particular, you must not be critical of a policy or operation in front of clients.

You also have a duty to report illegal acts or violations of work-related rules to management, whether committed by you or others. You should discuss these issues with your supervisor and you may refer to the CFIA's policy on Internal Disclosure of Information Concerning Wrongdoing and the Security Management Policy.

Your conduct also involves thinking through the possible impact of your actions and decisions on all interested parties – the public and the clients you serve, co-workers, subordinates and others – in terms of what is right or wrong or fair, even when legal and regulatory decisions do not require it.

(A) Appearance

Your appearance and dress should be appropriate for your duties. They must not be detrimental to your health and safety, your work performance and that of others, or to the image of the CFIA. Whether you interact with the public at your workplace or at a client's, your appearance should reflect a professional image.

(B) Terms and conditions of employment

You are responsible for observing the terms and conditions set out in your collective agreement and/or the relevant terms and conditions of employment and related employer policies.

Hours of work
You are expected to report to work on time each day in accordance with your work schedule. Whenever you need to change your regular work schedule, such as to leave work early or change your break or meal periods, you need to obtain your supervisor's prior approval.

You also have an obligation to advise your supervisor of any expected absence from work so that you may obtain the required authorization in advance.

If you are going to be absent from work due to illness or injury, an emergency or any other reason, you need to contact your supervisor directly, unless otherwise instructed, as soon as it is reasonably possible to inform him or her of the reason for your absence and your expected date of return to work.

Sick leave shall only be used when you are unable to perform your duties due to illness or injury. You may be required, in certain circumstances where it is deemed appropriate by your supervisor, to provide a medical certificate to support any or all absences due to illness or injury, in accordance with the provisions of your collective agreement or terms and conditions of employment.

(C) Care and use of government property and valuables

You are expected to account for, and protect, any government property or other valuables that you possess or control. If any is lost, stolen or damaged, immediately report the situation to your supervisor, who shall report the incident by completing a Security Incident Report.

Property includes, but is not restricted to, vehicles, buildings, space, premises, facilities, uniforms, badges, credentials, files and documents, office equipment and supplies, computers, software, video equipment and telecommunications devices.

Valuables include any items of value, such as government credit cards and telephone calling cards.

You may only use government-owned or leased property or valuables for authorized business purposes (unless it is for an authorized personal use, for example, as described in the Standard on the Use of Electronic Networks).

  • You cannot use your job title, credentials or any other official identification to obtain any privilege or favour for yourself or others or to do anything that is illegal, improper or contrary to the best interests of the CFIA.
  • You cannot transport anyone in a government-owned or leased vehicle unless that person's presence is connected with official business or is in the CFIA's best interest.
  • If you have an individual travel card, it is expected that you will use this card for official CFIA travel only. You are responsible for its use and for paying your CFIA travel expenses in a timely manner.

Electronic networks access and use
You may use the CFIA's computer systems, software, equipment, networks, internet, intranet and electronic mail only for authorized business purposes, except for the limited personal use noted in the CFIA's Standard on the Use of Electronic Networks.

If you have access to or use CFIA computer systems, equipment and software, you must make every effort to protect the CFIA from threats to security. In particular, you must:

  • guard against accidental or deliberate destruction of data and equipment, disclosure of sensitive information, theft and corruption, and exposure to viruses;
  • follow CFIA policies regarding the purchase and use of software; and
  • report any breach of computer security, policies and standards to your supervisor immediately, who will report the incident by completing a Security Incident Report.

Examples of offences and unacceptable uses of the Agency's electronic networks are outlined in the CFIA's Standard on the Use of Electronic Networks.

Intellectual property
Pursuant to section 12 of the Copyright Act and section 3 of the Public Servants Inventions Act, anything you have created, designed, developed or produced while doing your job becomes the full property of the CFIA. This includes software, computer devices, laboratory tests, work methods, procedures, forms and evaluation systems.

Returning government property and valuables
You must return all government property and valuables issued to you in your job when you leave your position, are transferred, reassigned or when you are so requested by the proper authority. When you leave the CFIA, you cannot take with you any of its documents. You may not communicate any information you learned while on the job that has not been made public by the CFIA. You are, however, permitted to retain a copy of your documentation relating to an individual grievance or complaint.

(D) Confidentiality and disclosure of information

Access to information and privacy
The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act control how the federal government collects, uses, stores, discloses and disposes of any personal information. It also lists exemptions to protect the release of information that could cause harm or be contrary to Canadian law.

The Privacy Act gives Canadian citizens and permanent residents the right to access their personal information held by the federal government and protects against its unauthorized disclosure. The Access to Information Act gives Canadian citizens and permanent residents access to information in federal government records. The following may be considered contraventions of the Access to Information Act: destroying, mutilating, altering, falsifying, concealing a record or directing anyone to do so, with the intent to deny a right of access.

Disclosure of, and safeguarding of, sensitive information
Protecting the privacy rights of clients is essential to the integrity of the CFIA and to the functioning of all operations that require the gathering of personal information. You must keep in strictest confidence all information you obtain about the CFIA's clients and their affairs. This type of information may only be disclosed to the client or a designated representative, except in cases authorized by legislation.

You are required to safeguard sensitive information. Therefore, you are to only use, process, store or handle protected or classified information for purposes specified by the CFIA. You may not remove, hide, change, mutilate, copy, destroy, falsify or make public any sensitive information, record or document, or direct anyone to do so, without express authorization from your supervisor unless it is part of your official CFIA duties. If you are uncertain about how to treat specific information, consult your supervisor. If an accidental or intentional disclosure occurs, your supervisor will report the incident by completing a Security Incident Report.

Providing testimony or information
You are obliged to cooperate and assist in the conduct of an investigation, for example, providing information to an investigator and offering complete access to CFIA information systems, documents and records to the extent that such access is legally permitted. It also includes the requirement to support the Crown's case by giving testimony in court. If you find yourself in this situation, ensure that your supervisor is made aware.

Internal disclosure policy
The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA) is part of the government's overall accountability framework. This act requires that each chief executive, including the chief executive of separate agencies, designate a senior officer to be responsible for receiving and acting on disclosures of wrongdoing from employees and to establish procedures to manage disclosures of wrongdoing made by employees, as defined in the PSDPA.

The President has designated a senior manager to act as the CFIA's Senior Integrity Officer. Employees who feel that they may have a disclosure issue as defined by the PSDPA may discuss the issue with the CFIA's Senior Integrity Officer. Information pertaining to the CFIA's Senior Integrity Officer and the Policy on Internal Disclosure of Information Concerning Wrongdoing can be found on the CFIA's intranet site.

(E) Conflict of interest

A conflict of interest arises whenever you, as an employee, allow personal assets, interests or activities to affect in any way, or have the potential or appear to affect, the honest, impartial performance of your duties or your judgement to act in the public interest. You must always act with honesty and integrity and in a way that does not undermine the credibility and reputation of the CFIA.

It is your responsibility to examine and review your personal and professional interests and activities to recognize, avoid, report and resolve any situation of real, potential or apparent conflict of interest. To avoid a conflict of interest situation, you should consult the CFIA's Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code, which is available from your Area Human Resources office or on the website. To ensure ongoing compliance with the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code, you should assess your situation at least annually, or immediately if your personal or employment situation changes and if it creates a potential conflict of interest situation.

If you have any doubts about your personal assets, interests or activities placing you in a conflict of interest situation, you must submit a confidential report to the Conflict of Interest (COI) Secretariat housed in the Workplace Relations Division, Human Resources Branch. It will then be reviewed and a decision issued by the appropriate delegated authority.

Gifts, hospitality and other benefits
CFIA employees are called upon to use their best judgment to avoid situations of real or perceived conflict. As a regulatory Agency, we face an ever greater responsibility to avoid conflict of interest situations. Employees should consider the following criteria on gifts, hospitality and other benefits, keeping in mind the full context of the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code.

CFIA employees must not accept any gifts, hospitality or other benefits that may have a real, potential or apparent influence on their objectivity in carrying out their official duties or may place them under obligation to the donor. This includes free or discounted admission to sporting and cultural events arising out of an actual or potential business relationship directly related to the employee's official duties.

  1. Organizations regulated by the CFIA
    Any offers of gifts, hospitality and other benefits from organizations regulated by the CFIA must always be declined.
  2. Others
    Accepting gifts, hospitality and other benefits is permissible if the following criteria are met. The gift, hospitality or other benefit
    1. does not have a real, potential or apparent influence on the employee's objectivity in carrying out his or her official duties;
    2. is unlikely to create an obligation to the donor;
    3. is infrequent;
    4. is of nominal value to a maximum of $25.00 (low-cost promotional objects, simple meals, souvenirs with no cash value);
    5. is within the normal standards of courtesy, hospitality or protocol; and
    6. does not compromise or appear to compromise in any way the integrity of the CFIA employee or the CFIA.

Notwithstanding the above, situations may arise where it is impossible to decline a gift, hospitality or other benefit even though it does not meet the criteria, such as an offer from a foreign delegation or international organization where refusal might be embarrassing or insulting to the donor. Under such circumstances, the employee may accept the offer but he/she must, within 15 days of receiving and/or accepting a gift, hospitality or other benefit, seek written direction from their manager. The manager will consult the Conflict of Interest (COI) Secretariat for guidance. After consulting with the COI Secretariat, the manager will notify the employee in writing whether the gift, hospitality or other benefit is to be retained by the CFIA, disposed of, donated to charity or retained by the CFIA employee concerned. In such situations, the gift, hospitality or other benefit must be registered with the COI Secretariat in the Gift Registry, regardless of the direction received from the manager.

(F) Consumption of intoxicants and smoking

The CFIA does not permit the consumption of alcohol, illegal drugs or other intoxicants while on duty or while on any premises where the CFIA conducts its business, except under special circumstances when authorized by senior management.

Similarly, you must never report for work under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs or other intoxicants. You are not to consume alcohol, illegal drugs or other intoxicants while operating a CFIA vehicle. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring adherence to this requirement.

The CFIA agrees with the medical community's view that the abuse of alcohol, drugs and other intoxicants is an illness. If you believe that you have a substance abuse problem, you are encouraged to contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for assistance. If deemed necessary, your supervisor may also refer you to the EAP. If you must take medication under prescription from a doctor that could affect your performance, you should speak to your supervisor in confidence.

The CFIA supports a safe and healthy work environment and does not permit smoking in any indoor or enclosed space, under the CFIA's control, in which employees perform their duties.

(G) Contact with the public

The importance of courteous, prompt, sensitive and professional service to the public, in your official capacity, cannot be overemphasized. In the eyes of many clients, you represent not only the CFIA but the entire Canadian public service.

Sensitivity to the needs of the public involves being professional and courteous, even under difficult conditions. You must not make any abusive, derisive, threatening, insulting, offensive or provocative statements or gestures to or about another person.

If you have the type of job in which you need to overcome an obstinate lack of cooperation on the part of a client – for example, if you are an inspector responsible for enforcement – a determined, persistent, professional stance may at times be required on your part.

The actions of persons from outside the CFIA may sometimes be aggressive or threatening or may even result in personal assault. Such behaviour will not be tolerated. The CFIA will provide you with the necessary protection, support and assistance. You must promptly report full details of any incident(s) to your supervisor and cooperate in any subsequent investigation.

Additional information can be found in the CFIA's policies related to the prevention and resolution of harassment and violence in the workplace.

(H) Financial matters

Care of money
You may be entrusted with amounts of money and are expected to be diligent in accounting for, safeguarding, and disposing of any money in your possession or control and must do so in accordance with established procedures and reasonable standards of care, as outlined in CFIA financial policies and procedures. If money in your care is misplaced, lost or stolen, you are to immediately report the matter to your supervisor, who shall report the incident by completing a Security Incident Report.

Soliciting contributions
In general, you should not solicit money from other employees. However, it is reasonable to ask for contributions to buy gifts for co-workers on occasions such as a marriage, reassignment, retirement or a death in the family and for authorized charitable purposes such as the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable campaign (GCWCC), or Christmas packages for a shelter or a deserving family sponsored by a group of employees.

(I) Harassment and discrimination

The CFIA promotes a zero-tolerance level of harassment in the work environment. You are responsible for contributing to a harassment-free workplace and, as such, you are expected to be respectful and civil in your dealings with others, whether they be managers, employees of the CFIA, clients or employees of other government departments.

Everyone has a right to be treated with respect and dignity. Harassment/discrimination of another individual or lack of action by a responsible authority is unacceptable. Additional information can be found in the CFIA's policies related to the prevention and resolution of harassment and violence in the workplace.

Violence in the workplace
The CFIA is committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all of its employees. The CFIA will provide assistance to you if you are subjected to aggressive, harassing or threatening behaviour, whether these incidents occur during the performance of your duties or as a direct result of your duties.

You have a responsibility to report to your supervisor any form of potentially aggressive or threatening behaviour from others, whether they be managers or employees of the CFIA, clients or employees of other government departments. A Security Incident Report will be completed and the relevant Occupational Health and Safety Workplace Committee or representative will be notified.

Aggressive or threatening behaviour towards others is unacceptable conduct and will not be tolerated. Situations of this nature are to be given full and immediate attention to eliminate any potential danger in the workplace.

(J) Off-duty conduct

Your off-duty conduct is usually a private matter. However, you should ensure that it does not affect your ability to perform your duties as a CFIA employee.

Off-duty conduct that may result in administrative or disciplinary action includes conduct that is harmful to the employer's reputation or is a violation of the Criminal Code and is injurious to the general reputation of the CFIA and its employees.

(K) Political activity

The Supreme Court has ruled that denying public servants the right to work for or against a political party is a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, the Court also recognized the importance of maintaining the political neutrality of the public service. Consequently, as a citizen you are entitled to express yourself freely and to participate in political activities, but as a public servant you must use discretion and judgement in doing so. Your political activities must not conflict with, or appear to conflict with, the impartial performance of your duties with the CFIA. For instance, when taking part in political activities, you must

  • remain loyal to your employer, the Government of Canada; and
  • exercise restraint, relative to your position and visibility, so as not to jeopardize the tradition of the public service as politically neutral.

In general, the more senior the level of the employee, the greater the need for caution and restraint with regard to political activities.

Any political candidacy at the federal, provincial, territorial or municipal levels while the candidate is an employee of CFIA must be approved in advance by the CFIA. Permission must be received from their delegated manager before an employee puts his or her name forward as a candidate. If selected as a candidate for federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government, the employee may be required to take leave without pay from the date he or she files nomination papers until the election results are known. If elected, the employee may be required to resign from the CFIA.

(L) Publicly commenting for the CFIA

Only designated spokespersons can issue statements or make comments about the CFIA's position on a given subject. If you are not a designated spokesperson, and you are asked for the CFIA's position on a subject, you must refer the enquiry to Media Relations, Public Affairs Branch.

(M) Public criticism of the CFIA

As an employee, you must ensure that your public statements or actions do not impair your ability to carry out your duties or call into question your impartiality in carrying out your duties.

  • You are expected to refrain from making, through any public medium, either directly or through another party, any public pronouncement critical of CFIA policies, programs and officials. You must also refrain from commenting on matters of current political controversy where the statement or actions might create a conflict with the duties of your position or the programs of the CFIA.
  • You should use internal means to bring any criticisms or concerns you may have to the attention of CFIA management.
  • You must fully respect the confidentiality requirements of information you have obtained because of your position.

(N) Health and safety

While on the job, you are expected to follow established safety procedures and comply with all instructions concerning health and safety for the workplace in accordance with the Canada Labour Code, RSC 1985, c L-2, Part II. You are also required to take all reasonable and necessary precautions to ensure your safety and health and that of other employees and any persons granted access to the workplace.

All safety equipment and clothing provided for your protection must be used in the required manner.

You are expected to cooperate with occupational health and safety committees or representatives and report to your supervisor all hazardous occurrences or situations likely to be hazardous to your safety or health or that of other persons in the workplace.

Additional information can be found in the CFIA's Occupational Health and Safety Policy.

(O) Security

You must observe the CFIA's security policies. You are to promptly notify your supervisor if you become aware of any security incident or potential criminal act. For more information, refer to the CFIA's Security Management Policy.

(P) Special work environments

If you work in a laboratory, you must maintain high standards of quality by following the quality policies, procedures and guidelines outlined in the laboratory's ISO/IEC 17025 compliant quality system manual. If you encounter chemical, biological, radiological or physical hazards in the course of your work, you must follow laboratory safety policies, guidelines and procedures as outlined in the Laboratory Safety Manual. You must take into consideration the safety of others in your duties.

If you work with animals, you must ensure that they are cared for and that projects are approved and carried out in accordance with the guidelines and requirements of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC).

You are expected to ensure that research activities are carried out using sound scientific principles and practices in accordance with the guidelines the CFIA and the Government of Canada have identified to govern federal science and technology.

Third party premises
You may be required to work on third party premises and to interact with third party managers and staff. CFIA management has agreed to principles and methods of operation on these premises. You are required to respect and comply with these conditions. In the event that a dispute arises between you and a third party manager or employee, and it is not possible to resolve it informally yourself, you are expected to refer the matter to your supervisor.

You are expected to conduct yourself in a professional and appropriate manner when on the premises of a third party. You are also expected to treat third party managers and staff courteously and with respect. Equally, you are entitled to be treated with respect by third party plant managers and staff.

If an incident of concern arises, raise it with your supervisor so that it may be resolved. Additional information can be found in the CFIA's policies related to the prevention and resolution of harassment and violence in the workplace.

Possible disciplinary action if there is misconduct

A great deal of trust is placed in you in the performance of your duties. We expect that you will adhere to the Code of Conduct and its related policies.

If you suspect or discover that you do not comply with this Code and its related policies, consult with your supervisor. Procedures are in place to ensure that all cases of employee misconduct or wrongdoing are handled fairly.

Despite preventive measures by the CFIA and its employees, a few employees may contravene the Code of Conduct, either explicitly or implicitly, and may engage in misconduct. If you contravene the Code, you may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. Any disciplinary action taken against you would be based on the seriousness of the breach of conduct, and in accordance with the CFIA's Discipline Policy and/or other related policies.

NOTE: Although this Code prescribes rules and standards of conduct for all employees of the CFIA, they are not all-inclusive. The absence of a specific rule or standard of conduct does not mean that an action is condoned. It may still be subject to disciplinary action.

Leadership role of managers

The personal example of all CFIA managers, including supervisors and team leaders, speaks louder than any written code.

As a manager, you are a visible role model for the employees you supervise and are expected to demonstrate leadership in respecting the Code of Conduct and, in particular, to :

  • provide effective, responsible and fair service to all Canadians;
  • exemplify the values of the CFIA and of the Public Service;
  • keep open, positive communications and working relationships;
  • respect equity and diversity in all their dimensions;
  • ensure compliance with the Code and its related policies; and
  • recognize excellence and encourage personal and professional development in a learning environment.

Every supervisor will ensure that all employees under their responsibility are provided with a copy of the Code of Conduct.

Sources and authorities


Please refer enquiries regarding the Code of Conduct to the Workplace Relations Division, Human Resources Branch.