Managing Workplace Ethics & Conduct

This is module is designed to provide insight into workplace ethics, codes of conduct and the important role that both Managers and HR Professionals have in upholding an organisations corporate and social responsibilities.

Objectives

Ensure that personal behaviour is consistently ethical and reflects values of the organisation

What are Ethics?

Business ethics are defined as “the study of what constitutes right and wrong, or good and bad, human conduct in business context”. 

Business ethics provide employees with a set of rules of how they should behave 

Are usually communicated to employees via a code of ethics and a code of conduct

What is a Code of Ethics?

A set of guiding principles or values that an organisation upholds 

A broader focus and provides general information on expected behaviour 

A statement that informs employees of right from wrong 

A public statement to an organisations stakeholders of its obligations to them 

Sets the foundation for an organisations code of conduct

What is a Code of Conduct?

An extension of the code of ethics, but is more specific 

Specific information with regards to expected behaviour 

Relates to the organisations strategic intent 

Outlines the responsibilities and obligations of all level of employees 

Sometimes states consequences for failure to meet expectations 

Can outline avenues for resolving complaints Usually states an legislative obligations the organisation may have ethically pertaining to equity, diversity and corporate governance 

Ethics and the Law

Often confused – but they are different 

Breaking the law is not always immoral and, equally, just because an action is legal does not mean that it is morally right. 

See example

Ethics and the Law

People often confuse ethics and law – but they are different things.  Breaking the law is not always immoral and, equally, just because and action is legal does not mean that it is morally right.

For example:

An action can be illegal but morally right.

In 2007 Ms. Janet Hinshaw-Thomas was arrested by Canadian authorities for accompanying Haitians seeking asylum in Canada.  She was charged with human trafficking.  Her lawyer said: “She is not running some kind of covert murky operation at all, she was doing this on a purely humanitarian basis to assist refugees who are seeking asylum in a country where they have a right to present their claims. “ Ms. Hinshaw-Thomas had advised the Canadian Border authorities five days prior to her trip and had provided information as to the when she would arrive and how many refugees she had with her.  Yet, she broke the law and could have spent the rest of her life in prison for her actions.

V. Barry and W. Shaw, 2001, Moral issues in business, Wadsworth, California, pp. 4.

An action can be legal but morally wrong.

For example, executives can retrench a large number of employees and use the cost savings from those retrenchments to pay themselves a higher salary or bonus.  Whilst this is unethical and morally wrong it is not illegal.

There are a number of pieces of legislation that apply to organisations and employees that both managers and human resources professionals must ensure are complied with in when providing handling employee and client information.

Equally human resources professionals are responsible for ensuring that business ethics are incorporated into all human resources policies and procedures.

‘Ethics blog: October 2007, archive: Ethical and illegal’, Ruder Finn, viewed June 2010

https://www.liv.asn.au/Professional-Practice/Ethics/Conduct-Rules

To be ethical at work means to?

  • Uphold the values of an organisation and be able to consistently demonstrate right from wrong in the way we conduct ourselves everyday at work.
  • A public statement about how an organisation will conduct itself in meeting its obligations to stakeholders
  • A study of human behaviour in the workplace

Ensure that code of conduct is observed across the organisation and that its expectations are incorporated in HR policies and procedures

Example of a Code of Ethics & Conduct 

"By-Law 1"

"Code of ethics & professional conduct" - The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI)

"Preamble"

"This code of ethics and professional conduct represents the desire of members of the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) to establish the ethical and professional conduct expected to lead and elevate the human resources profession."

"By joining AHRI, members agree to be bound by the standards of the code and include it as part of their working habits within their organisations, with clients, colleagues and the community."

"Advancing  the  Profession  -  AHRI  members  are  expected  to  enhance  the  good  name  of  the profession  and  to  promote  the  importance  of  human  resources  in  the  workplace,  the  business community and broader society."

"Leadership  -  AHRI  members  will,  to  the  extent  of  their  ability  and  opportunity,  lead  others,  by modelling  competent  and  ethical  behaviour,  by  fostering  an  ethical  work  environment,  and  by fulfilling their professional role selflessly."

"Honesty - AHRI members will be honest, objective and truthful in their words, actions and representations and will not knowingly mislead their employer, employees or clients."

"Integrity - AHRI members will act with integrity and trustworthiness and will not promote their own self interest or allow personal interest to undermine their objectivity, accuracy, independence and behaviour."

"Lawfulness - AHRI members will not act unlawfully or advise in any way that would knowingly countenance, encourage or assist unlawful conduct by their employer, employees or clients."

"Confidentiality - AHRI members will respect the private or proprietary nature of information received in the course of their work and will not disclose confidential information without the express consent of those concerned or as provided for by law."

"Justice - AHRI members will foster equal opportunity and non-discrimination and seek to establish and maintain fair, reasonable and equitable standards of treatment of individuals by their employer and by all employees in the organisation, through their own behaviour and through the policies and practices of their employer."

"Competence - AHRI members will maintain the highest standards possible in the advice, information and guidance they provide employees, employers and clients and commit themselves to maintaining and enhancing their professional knowledge, skills and competence through continuous professional development."

"Organisational capability - AHRI members will contribute to and encourage the learning and development of employees and will seek to achieve the fullest possible development of people for"

"present and future organisational needs."

https://www.ahri.com.au/__data/assets/file/0013/4414/By-Law-1-Code-of-Ethics-and-Professional-Conduct_updated-October-2016.pdf

Policies and Practices

For an organisation’s code of conduct to be effective in governing the way in which employees behave the expectations it sets out must be included in all policies and practices across the organisation. 

This allows the code of conduct to ‘come to life’ and have an impact across the organisation. 

For example if your organisation were to develop a recruitment policy they would need to include such elements as:

  • All applicants to be treated with respect and courtesy and without harassment 
  • All applications will be treated as confidential and care and diligence will be undertaken for all applications received 
  • It is expected that all applicants provide honest information and in return honest feedback will be provided 
  • All applications will be regarded on merit in accordance with anti-discrimination legislation & equal employment opportunity legislation.


Conflicts of Interest

Applicants and hiring managers must disclose and take reasonable steps to avoid any conflict of interest 

Hiring managers must not make improper use of inside information, or 

The employees duties, status, power or authority, in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for any applicant 

Hiring managers must at all times uphold the organisations values, the integrity and good reputation.

Ethics and the Law are one in the same

  • Breaking the law is not always immoral and, equally just because an action is legal does not mean that it is morally right

Observe confidentiality requirements in dealing with all employee and client information

Maintaining Confidentiality

Ensure that personal behaviour is consistently ethical and reflects the values of the organisation. 

Ensure that a code of conduct is observed across the organisation and that its expectations are incorporated in HR policies and practices. 

Observe confidentiality requirements in dealing with all HR information. 

Deal with unethical behaviour promptly. 

Ensure that all HR staff are clear about ethical expectation o their behaviour.

Being Ethical with Sensative Information

Managers and HR alike have to ensure:

They understand and know how to uphold the expected standard of behaviour within their organisation. 

Model the values and ethics of their own organisation 

Observe confidentiality at all times 

Ensure any new policies, procedures or processes that they implement follow the code of ethics 

Understand reporting requirements for the observation of unethical behaviour 

Effectively manage unethical behaviour in consultation with all authorised stakeholders 

Code of Conduct is only effective when?

  • There is full accountability and transparency for the way employees are expected to behave in the workplace
  • It is written into policy
  • All employees and clients are treated with dignity, courtesy and respect
  • All employees and clients are harassed constantly and their personal information can be shared with anyone
  • All employees and clients are not discriminated against and are given equal opportunity to access employment and service opportunities

Deal with Unethical Behaviour Appropriately

Dealing with Unethical Behaviour

  • It is essential that all unethical behaviour is dealt with promptly. 
  • Failing to address issues can send the wrong message. 
  • Addressing it sends a strong message of zero tolerance. 
  • All allegations of a potential breach must be investigated 
  • Process needs to be thorough and in line with procedural fairness and principles of natural justice. 
  • HR must consider the organisations policies and procedures for dealing with breaches before taking any action. 
  • Consider any applicable legislation 
  • Organisations code of conduct and ethics 

Observing Confidentiality Requirements

One of the greatest expectations of a Manager and a HR Professional is maintaining confidentiality.  

Managers and HR Professionals are exposed to large amounts of confidential information regarding employees:

  • Salaries and wages 
  • Performance 
  • Job applications 
  • Promotions 
  • Terminations and retrenchments 
  • Resignations 

Is it important to be a good role model when you are a Manager?

  • A Manager should always demonstrate that they are personally accountable for their ethical behaviour at work

Ensure that all persons responsible for the management of people are clear about ethical expectations and their behaviour

Managing Expectations & Attitudes towards Ethics in the Workplace

  • Ensure that personal behaviour is consistently ethical and reflects the values of the organisation 
  • Ensure that a code of conduct is observed across the organisation and that its expectations are incorporated into organisational policies and practices 
  • Observe confidentiality and privacy requirements in dealing with all employee information 
  • Deal with unethical behaviour promptly 
  • Ensure that all Managers and HR staff are clear about ethical expectation of their behaviour
  • Consider having a whistle blower policy

Ensure All Stakeholders Involved:

  • Understand and know how to uphold the expected standard of behaviour within your organisation. 
  • Demonstrate the values and ethics of your organisation 
  • Observe confidentiality and privacy at all times 
  • Ensure any new policies, procedures or processes that the organisation implements follows the code of ethics and is not contrary to it in any way.
  • Understand reporting requirements for the observation of unethical behaviour 
  • Effectively manage unethical behaviour in consultation with relevant Senior Managers and HR

Who is responsible for demonstrating ethical behaviour at work?

Only Government organisations need to demonstrate corporate ethics and responsible behaviour at work, as they are accountable to the public.

  • All organisations regardless of what sector or industry they are in should demonstrate ethical behaviour that is transparent and open.