Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - FAQs: Shared Code of conduct

FAQs: Shared Code of conduct

Code of conduct

These frequently asked questions (FAQs) give further guidance about the shared Code of conduct.

Shared Code of conduct

The shared Code of conduct (the code) applies to registered practitioners in 12 professions (see Which practitioners does the shared Code of conduct apply to?). The code sets out National Boards’ expectations of professional behaviour and conduct for practitioners registered in these professions. 

Practitioners have a professional responsibility to be familiar with and to apply this code, helping to keep the public safe.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners
  • chiropractors
  • dental practitioners
  • medical radiation practitioners
  • occupational therapists
  • optometrists
  • osteopaths
  • paramedics
  • pharmacists
  • physiotherapists
  • podiatrists and podiatric surgeons

The Medical Board of Australia, Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia and the Psychology Board of Australia have profession-specific codes of conduct or code of ethics for the practitioners that they regulate. You can read these on their websites.

The shared Code of conduct (the code) is published on each of the relevant National Board websites in either the Codes and guidelines, Our standards or Professional standards section.

The code is also published on the Ahpra website

Practitioners

The shared Code of conduct (the code) applies to health practitioners registered in 12 professions (see Which practitioners does the shared Code of conduct apply to?). The code sets out the standards of professional conduct the National Boards expect of these practitioners. Practitioners have a professional responsibility to be familiar with and to apply this code.

National Boards and Ahpra

The code is an important part of each Board’s regulatory framework for protecting the public. National Boards use the code to evaluate practitioners’ conduct. By defining Boards’ expectations of professional conduct, the code supports patients’ interests, good patient care and the delivery of appropriate, effective health services within an ethical framework.

The public

The public can also use the code to better understand what they can expect from registered health practitioners. 

The Code of conduct (the code) has been revised so that it continues to be relevant and useful for practitioners, more accessible for health consumers and an effective and up-to-date regulatory tool.

Changes have only been made to the shared Code of conduct (the code) where they were needed to keep the code up-to-date, effective, clear and relevant. 

The main changes to the code include:

  • overarching principles to guide behaviour including when an issue is not specifically addressed in the code
  • a new section on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety that includes the National Scheme’s definition of cultural safety 
  • information about practitioners’ responsibilities in relation to bullying and harassment including the importance of addressing the issue in the workplace and the role of National Boards and Ahpra
  • content about the importance of clinical governance particularly for practitioners in leadership positions 
  • more information about vexatious complaints (notifications)
  • guidance for employers about ensuring performance targets and other business practices are consistent with the shared code of conduct, and
  • reorganised content to reduce duplication, make sequencing more logical and minor changes to wording to improve clarity.

The Chiropractic and Medical Radiation Practice Boards have removed the profession specific appendices attached to the previous version of the code. 

 

The revised shared Code of conduct (the code) came into effect on 29 June 2022.

On 29 June 2022 the code replaced existing codes of conduct for the 12 professions. Practitioners must comply with the standards of professional conduct set out in the revised code from this date. 

However, when using the code to evaluate a practitioners’ conduct National Boards will apply the code that was in place when the conduct occurred.

If you have a question about the shared Code of conduct, you can get in touch with Ahpra by making an online enquiry, or calling the customer service team on 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (from outside Australia).

 

Shared Code of conduct and vaccination/immunisation

The shared code provides guidance that good practice includes understanding the importance of immunisation against communicable diseases and taking appropriate precautions to limit the spread of infectious diseases to yourself and others.

It further states that good practice includes being immunised against any relevant communicable diseases. See the shared Code of conduct Section 9.1 Your health.


As a registered health practitioner, you have a responsibility to ensure you are protecting the public including from communicable diseases. You should assess the risk and relevance of immunisation, based on your own circumstances including your area of practice, and consider how not being vaccinated may affect public safety.

The risk and relevance of immunisation is different for every practitioner. For example, the potential risk of a practitioner who works entirely by telehealth will be different to that of a practitioner who works with patients face to face, such as in a hospital or aged care facility. A practitioner working in a hospital or aged care facility is likely to put the public at significantly higher risk if not immunised against a range of illness, not limited to COVID-19, than a practitioner that has no physical contact with patients.


The Boards’ position is to strongly encourage all registered health practitioners and students (particularly those undertaking placements in various practice settings) to have the full COVID-19 vaccination course as scheduled unless medically contraindicated. However, it is your decision whether to be vaccinated or not.

If you choose not to be vaccinated, you must consider how you will protect your patients and the public from the risk of communicable diseases. You must also ensure that you are complying with relevant public health and employment requirements. If you are not vaccinated, these requirements may mean you are not able to work in a setting where you have face-to-face contact with patients, such as in a hospital or aged care facility.


Not being vaccinated, against COVID-19 or other communicable diseases, is not on its own a reason for a National Board to take regulatory action.

Regardless of your own vaccination status, you must ensure that there are appropriate measures in place in your practice or work setting to manage any risk of transmission of communicable diseases including COVID-19, to patients, colleagues and the community.

You should also be aware of other requirements and obligations from employers or Commonwealth, state or territory health departments around vaccinations.

Please read our statements for more information about vaccination information.


The code is not a substitute for legislation and case law, for example workplace health and safety. If there is any conflict between the code and the law, the law takes precedence.

You should be aware of other legal requirements about immunisation, including public health advice from Commonwealth, state and territory health departments about vaccination requirements and the legal requirement to provide a safe workplace.


More information about COVID-19 vaccination can be found in Ahpra and the National Boards’ 
Position Statement – Registered health practitioners and students and COVID-19 vaccination

For other information about COVID-19 including Board specific information, please see the COVID-19 updates webpage

For general information about COVID-19 and vaccines, the Commonwealth and state and territory Department of Health websites (see below), are the most accurate and up-to-date sources of information

You can also look up the COVID-19 section on the Department of Health websites or call the Coronavirus helpline on 1800 020 080 which is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.


 
 
 
Page reviewed 29/06/2022