Code of Conduct
What is a code of conduct?
A code of conduct is a written set of rules that outline the acceptable behavior and norms employees should follow within an organization. A code of conduct is there to tell employees what is expected of them and should be linked to the organization’s values, mission, and principles. The code of conduct serves as a guideline for employees and sets the foundation for all other company policies. A code of conduct is not a contract, nor does it replace policies.
A code of conduct can be used in conjunction with existing policies, or it can be used on its own. When an organization wants to develop a code of conduct, it must first take into consideration the location and industry where its company operates. For example, the code will differ drastically if the employees work within a school environment versus a factory.
A code of conduct must be relevant to the organization and its employees. It must align with the company’s values, mission, vision, and principles. When an organization wants to develop a code of conduct, it can have input from all areas within the company, especially HR departments.
What are the benefits?
A code of conduct provides employees with a clear set of instructions on how to behave within the company. The code of conduct serves also as a guide for everyone to work on a safe and healthy workplace. This can reduce legal risks and build trust between management and staff.
A code of conduct defines guidance on rules, policies, and procedures that should be followed for any occasion or situation involving employee behavior. It prevents misunderstandings that can result in disciplinary action or termination. A good code of conduct can help to engage employees of the company by giving rules and compliance initiative to everyone.
An effective code of conduct also assures employees that their voice is heard and provides them with a method for reporting any misconduct or violations of the code. It can be printed and placed in offices throughout the company, so it’s visible to all employees.
In some companies, a code of conduct can also help bring about changes or improvements that need to be made in the workplace. In this way, a code of conduct is not just there for internal use but can also help customers understand the type of behavior they should expect from employees.
If a code of conduct is developed correctly, it will create a common code of ethics and values for all employees to follow. Developing a code of conduct can help reduce discrimination, harassment, and other forms of unlawful behavior within the company. It can also provide customers with a sense of security because they know their rights are being protected by clear rules that apply to everyone.
What is the code of conduct’s role?
An effective code of conduct should reflect an organization’s culture and how employees within the company are expected to behave. A code of conduct can help guide employees when they make decisions, positively impacting their behavior and one of their colleagues.
If a code of conduct is developed with honesty, respect, and ethical behavior in mind, then employees will feel more at ease within the global company environment. It is also the organization's mission to ensure all business partners are following the rules of the company code.
When an employee knows what is expected from them, they are less likely to do something that would result in disciplinary action or termination. A code of conduct can also help an organization maintain a professional and consistent code across all locations and departments, which will build trust.
Why is it important for a company to have a code of conduct?
An effective code of conduct is a statement about what is and isn’t acceptable for employees of that organization. This important document helps layout the company culture and shows how employees, customers, and suppliers should expect to be treated by the company.
A code of conduct is a company's code that allows employees to know the rules and boundaries in which they are expected to operate at all times. It helps overcome ambiguity by providing employees with clear guidelines of what is expected of them. A code of conduct can help an organization avoid wrongful termination lawsuits because there was no written code explaining the code of conduct.
A code of conduct is an important part of any company’s employee handbook and often has to be accepted by employees when they join the business. At this point, it becomes a legal agreement between the organization and the employee.
Other factors include the facts that:
- A code of conduct guides employees to support their decision-making in their day-to-day jobs.
- Codes of conduct provide a public statement of what the organization stands for and the standards it upholds. This can be used as part of an organization’s marketing message.
- A code of conduct is a legal requirement for many organizations. Legislation such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires public companies to put codes of conduct into place.
- A code of conduct can protect an organization from fines for unethical behavior by employees as it proves the organization tries to prevent illegal behavior.
How does a code of conduct differ from other policies?
A code of conduct is not a contract, nor does it replace policies (i.e. breach of confidentiality, harassment, etc.). Employees are expected to follow not only the code of conduct but also all other policies as well.
A code of conduct will differ from policies that are relevant to specific situations, i.e. sexual harassment, discrimination, child labor, dog policy, or requirements for travel expenses. A code of conduct informs all employees what is expected of them at all times rather than certain situations only and sets the organization's values. It provide guidance and set the day to day basis rules. All written codes are generally established by the legal department of the corporation.
What is the difference between a code of ethics and a code of conduct?
A code of conduct differs from a code of ethics because a code of ethics is made of guidelines that outline the ethical obligations employees have to their employer, customers, business partners, and society at large.
Although a code of conduct is often confused with a code of ethics, there is a simple way to differentiate between the two:
- A code of conduct is focused and refers to the explicit acceptable and unacceptable behavior of individuals.
- A code of ethics is broader and guides the type of behavior and acceptable decisions in an organization.
How should you write a code of conduct?
A code of conduct should be easy to understand and avoid any form of doubt. To achieve this, you should:
- Avoid jargon and specialist legal language. Write the document with the mind reader; consider your workforce’s education level when you do this.
- Make the code of conduct comprehensive and ensure it covers all details, answering all the questions someone reading the company's code for the first time might have. The code of conduct should illustrate all of the conduct examples employees should have.
- Make sure it’s easy for everyone to access. Storing it on your HRIS would make it easily available.
In terms of the content, you will need to include details on the following elements:
- Your company’s values, mission, and vision should be clearly defined in the company code
- Clarity on unacceptable activities such as illegal activity and smoking on site
- Clear guidance on the internet, and company mobile phone and computer usage with mention of cyber security, email and social media activity
- Clarity on discrimination and harassment
- Encourages employees to follow the dress code
- Gift and entertainment policies
- Guidance on relationships in the workplace
- Meal and rest break policies
- Details on consequences of violating the code of conduct.
- Give clear instructions about the use of company assets
- Follow the existing corporate culture
How does a code of conduct benefit employees?
A code of conduct provides an opportunity to educate and develop staff by clarifying what they can expect from their organization as well as what the organization expects from them. It ensures that everyone has a clear understanding of their mutual relationships by giving conduct examples.
The code of conduct also provides an opportunity to promote a positive work environment by setting boundaries and being clear about unacceptable behaviors and ethical business conduct. This can be achieved by avoiding any discriminative language in the code of conduct.
A code of conduct enables the organization to communicate its commitment to discipline and professionalism and can provide clarity on what is considered misconduct. The business ethics according to the company's expectations are more clear thanks to the code of conduct.
What happens when there is a code of conduct breach?
When a code of conduct has been breached, an investigation needs to take place, after which sanctions should be applied. The policy will outline the code of conduct sanctions and the process to follow when a code of conduct breach occurs.
A code of conduct policy will guide on what is considered misconduct and the sanctions that need to be applied when a code of conduct has been breached. It should also contain details on how employees can appeal code of conduct sanctions.