Public Servants Discipline

The Public Service Commission (PSC) was established in 2008 and is an independent central agency of government with duties that include receiving complaints regarding public servants. Its broad goal is to enhance the Queensland public sector’s leadership. It is responsible for publishing and managing disciplinary proceedings under the Discipline Guideline, a document that acts as a guide to navigating the Public Service Act 2008 (Qld) (PSA). In particular, Chapter 6 of the PSA highlights disciplinary action for public service employees and former public service employees and lists (non-exhaustively) examples of disciplinary action that can be taken.

The PSC emphasises that proceedings under the PSA are not a substitute for effective management action and often the earliest intervention for unacceptable conduct is for an early conversation to be had.

Formal Investigation

The formal investigative process involves the receipt of a complaint/allegation(s) and subsequent selection of a decision maker by the PSC, who will then conduct a preliminary assessment to determine the most appropriate response and inform the employee complained about of the complaint. The nature of the complaint will inform whether a formal investigation is appropriate and the decision maker will decide this based on whether it is appropriate or not. If police are involved it may or may not be appropriate to put the investigation on hold.

If it is decided that an investigation will occur, the decision maker gives the employee written details of each allegation and provides the employee an opportunity to respond as to whether they believe an investigation should be undertaken for each specific allegation. The decision maker will then determine whether there are discipline grounds that have been established based on the civil law standard of the balance of probabilities. Once this decision has been made, both parties will be informed. A decision may be appealed against depending on certain criteria in sections 194 and 195 of the PSA.

Immediate Action

Managerial action may be commenced immediately where it is found to be inappropriate or disproportional to launch a formal investigation. This is often effective for the cessation of unacceptable conduct, early resolution, preserving working relationships, and avoiding an unnecessary and disproportionately protracted dispute.


Upon completion of a formal investigation process, disciplinary action proportionate to the conduct is to be taken. As per section 188 of the PSA, disciplinary action may take the form of (but is not limited to):

  • termination of employment;
  • reduction of classification level and a consequential change of duties;
  • transfer or redeployment to other public service employment;
  • forfeiture or deferment of a remuneration increment or increase;
  • reduction of remuneration level;
  • imposition of a monetary penalty;
  • if a penalty is imposed, a direction that the amount of the penalty be deducted from the employee’s periodic remuneration payments; and
  • a reprimand.

How can we help?

Investigations by professional disciplinary bodies like the PSC can have serious implications for your career moving forward. Robertson O’Gorman is committed to assisting clients faced with PSC investigations throughout the entire process. This included the making of oral and written submissions.