Public Servants Can Be Politically Active

Many of the people at the front line of alcohol harm are public servants. One could argue that public servants have a responsibility to inform MPs about the situation with alcohol harm.

State Service Commission (SCC) guidelines make it clear that in almost all instances, individuals can be politically active, including on issues related to their public service vocation.

To be double sure, we also contacted the PSA (Public Service Association) who confirmed this. Only public servants directly working on the policy area in question need stay neutral.

  • There is no problem bringing attention to your experience. All you have to do is make it clear you are acting as a private individual and are not representing your employer.
  • The State Service Commission’s guidelines make it clear public servants have the rights of other citizens to engage in political activity, but in some circumstances these rights are tempered by the requirements of the job.
  • Only if you are working on, for instance, policy advice on that issue do you need to be careful to be seen to be politically neutral.
  • Public servants are free to be in the media, visit MPs, appear at Select Committees and so on.
  • One major change that occurred this year (2010) is that you DON’T have to ask your boss for permission. Many front line managers won’t be up to date on this so don’t let them pressure you out of political involvement on this basis. Refer them to the PSA website or the State Services Commission if necessary.
  • There is a clause in the SSC guidelines which says that if you are politically active, you must not bring your employer into disrepute. Unless you are acting or speaking outrageously you needn’t worry about this clause, or let your managers use this clause to shut down your political activity.
  • You must do your political activity in your own time.

See the State Services Commission guidelines