Key messages

  • Health service board members must individually and collectively comply with the Directors' Code of Conduct, available on the VPSC website.
  • All health service boards should have a Conduct Charter or equivalent to ensure all board members understand their obligations from the Directors' Code of Conduct, as well as having agreed mechanisms to manage poor behaviour.
  • As the leaders of the organisation, health service boards have a key role in shaping the culture of their organisation.
  • Every interaction inside the boardroom and outside the boardroom plays an important role and helps contribute to developing a professional and respectful culture.
  • Health service boards are required to oversight occupational health and safety issues, including bullying, harassment and occupational violence.

An important part of your role as a Board member is to contribute to and support a professional and respectful culture at Board level. Board directors are leaders of the organisation. The way directors conduct themselves inside the Boardroom, within the organisation and with employees, volunteers and other stakeholders of the organisation is a strong influence on the culture and values of the organisation as a whole.

Model Conduct Charter

All Boards in Victoria's health sector should have in place a Conduct Charter (or equivalent) to ensure compliance with the Code of Conduct for Directors of Public Entities (the Directors' Code of Conduct). A Conduct Charter encourages and requires conduct by the directors that will enhance the leadership and governance of the health service, for the benefit of the health service's patients, staff, stakeholders and communities.

Board directors should continually strive to comply with the Conduct Charter and address any behaviour in the Boardroom that is inconsistent with the Conduct Charter. Unprofessional behaviour must be addressed and not normalised or ignored. It is up to each of board member to contribute to a culture that supports the implementation of the Conduct Charter.

Ideally, the Conduct Charter that applies to a health Board and its individual directors is:

  • a consolidated statement of the key standards of conduct, accountabilities and responsibilities that apply to the directors' role, as well as relevant organisational principles and values
  • based on the Directors' Code of Conduct issued by Victoria's Public Sector Commissioner
  • consistent with the Victorian Public Sector Values, and the values of the Department of Health and Human Services
  • agreed to, and complied with, by all Directors and all attendees of Board meetings\
  • applied to all Board members in the reviews of their individual performance
  • aligned with the health services code of conduct and values that apply to employees of the health service.

In order to assist health service boards implement the Code with their board, the department has developed a model Conduct Charter that includes practical examples of what compliance with the Directors' Code of Conduct looks like, as well as mechanisms for boards to manage issues of board member behaviour should they arise.

This document is not designed to be a governance handbook or manual, it is a tool for use and adaption by boards to address and manage the behaviour of a member of the board.

The model Conduct Charter is below in word format to enable health Boards to adapt it for use by their board. There are also case studies below that you can work through with your board.

The department welcomes your feedback on the model Conduct Charter. If you have feedback, please let us know by emailing board.appointments@dhhs.vic.gov.au.

Board's role in workplace culture

Boards, as the leaders of the organisation, play a critical role in establishing a safe and ethical workplace culture in the organisation - this is about leading from the top.

As hospital leaders, it is your responsibility to ensure inappropriate behaviour is addressed and you build and role-model positive workplace cultures. Board directors need to work cooperatively together in the best interests of the organisation.

In 2013, the Victorian Public Sector Commission's (VPSC) People Matter survey found that 25 per cent of health agency employees reported experiencing bullying, the highest of all Victorian public sector agencies. From 2016, the survey now asks additional questions to uncover trends relating to bullying, harassment, equity and diversity, and wellbeing of healthcare professionals.

Having a respectful culture is a basic right for your workforce - it is the role of the board to ensure that staff have a safe and respectful place to work. Patient safety depends on high-functioning teams and this stems from the culture. A positive workplace culture will also assist with recruiting and retaining the best staff.

Below are some resources for developing positive, safe and ethical workplace cultures.  There are also case studies for boards to work through with guidance on the sort of issues that boards ought to consider.

You can also access videos of the presentations at the Leading a Safe and Ethical Workplace Culture in Health forum that was held on 12 July 2016, in the Information and education for health service boards section.