A business code of ethics outline will discuss how employees are expected to behave and will clearly state what is allowed and what is not allowed. These ethics standards should encourage an ethical corporate culture and address all employee code of conduct policies. Examples should be provided to help demonstrate the policies and rules. It is impossible to detail each and every rule for every possible situation so a business code of ethics should be more broad and attempt to discuss multiple situations at once.
General Topics and Issues to Address
There are certain topics and issued that should always be addressed. These apply to all types of businesses. These include:
- General guidelines employees should follow when at work: Expected ethical behavior and how employees should always put forth their best efforts when working. Provide examples.
- Conflicts of interest: Conflicts of interest should be defined and clear examples should be provided to help explain them. What is acceptable and unacceptable should be distinguished.
- Confidentiality: All things that should not be discussed outside of the company or within the company, such as between different departments, should be clearly addressed and stated. Provide examples.
- Supplier and customer relationships: The types of personal professional relationships that are allowed and not allowed should be discussed. Whether these relationships need to be disclosed should also be discussed. It should be stated whether or not a relationship will lead to an employee being reassigned. Provide examples.
- Gifts: Discuss whether or not employees are permitted to receive gifts. Also discuss what types of gifts are allowed and which are forbidden. Is there a monetary limit on how much gifts can cost? Provide examples.
- Entertainment: Discuss the types of entertainment that will be allowed at work. Also discuss how often and when they are allowed to occur. Provide examples.
- Unethical behavior: Provide the general definition of ethics and discuss and provide examples for the behaviors that are indefinitely prohibited. Common prohibited behavior includes falsifying employee documents, taking bribes or kickbacks, and giving out information that is confidential.
- Using the company’s assets, supplies, and products for personal use and activities: Thoroughly discuss whether employees are allowed to use any of the above for personal use and activities. Such things that should be discussed include internet access, copiers, office supplies, and vehicles. Provide clear examples.
- Reporting unethical behavior or fraud: Encourage employees to discuss these things and outline the process they should follow to report them. Let employees know about the company’s open-door policy and stress that everything they report will be kept confidential.
Ensuring Employees Understand
It is very important that all employees fully understand the code of ethics. To ensure this, read over it with all employees and encourage them to ask all questions they may have. Allow them to ask questions in private if they do not feel comfortable asking them in front of other employees.
Provide a code of ethics training course that all employees must complete before beginning work. This course should be repeated every time the code of ethics is changed or updated.
Once all employees complete the course, have them sign a copy stating that they understand everything and to ensure that they will abide by all policies and rules. A copy should then be posted somewhere where all employees can see it. Every employee should also be provided with a personal copy they can keep as a reference.