Duty of care when giving advice or information

Giving advice or information

Duty of care with regard to advice involves the performance of duties to a reasonable standard of care. 'Reasonable' generally means a standard of care expected of a reasonably prudent public servant administering welfare legislation consistent with sound administrative practices.

The consequences of incorrect advice are the same whether the advice is given orally or in writing, so the same degree of care must be taken. Care must be taken to ensure that oral advice is expressed clearly enough for the person to understand, taking into account any obvious educational and language barriers.

Advice or action outside Department's area of expertise

Departmental officers are often asked to provide information about other government departments or agencies. It is important to make the individual aware that the enquiry is outside the expertise of the Department and although the Department will offer whatever assistance is possible, the individual should make enquiries directly with the appropriate department or agency for authoritative advice or action.

Negligent advice

The question of whether negligence occurred depends on the particular facts of each case. Duty of care is not breached simply because advice is wrong. The duty is only to exercise reasonable care when giving advice. As a rule, carelessness will constitute a breach of duty of care.

A person will usually not be able to establish that they have suffered economic loss because of negligent advice if the person has acted on the response to a general enquiry they made.

Last reviewed: 20 March 2019