A code of ethics helps establish certain rules of engagement for all employees, vendors, and company stakeholders. And a lot of what used to be considered normal or understood may need to be written in 2022. As you carve out new policies this year, there are a few ethics-related standards to include. And for those companies reviewing last year’s policy to identify areas of improvement or to make changes, there are ethics standards worth amending. Make sure your company ethics policy includes these key segments to ensure a safe working environment and culture as well as to maintain compliance.
Conflicts of Interest Clauses
Regardless of your industry niche or core company offering, there is always a risk you’ll face an instance of conflict of interest. From run-ins with family members to employees working side hustles, you’ll want to include a segment within your ethics policy that outlines what behaviors are allowed and disallowed. As a best practice, you can also define the various types of COI, including avoidance, influence, the appearance of impropriety, outside interests, and confidential information. COI situations can be complex. So, make sure you outline the next steps should any staff find themselves dealing with it first-hand.
2. Zero-Tolerance Policies for Harassment
There are some obvious forms of harassment that most all companies include in their ethics policies, enforcing zero tolerance. Sexual harassment usually has a dedicated chapter outlining definitions, protocols, and consequences. But don’t forget to include some of the other types of harassment, including psychological, discriminatory, personal, physical, and cyberbullying. The key, again, is to offer clear definitions for your employees, so they know how to recognize harassment when they encounter it. And, of course, reinforce your company position against all forms of harassment by enforcing your zero-tolerance policy.
3. Dedicated Segments Outlining How to Report Ethics Violations
Having an ethics policy is one thing. But if your employees don’t know how to go about reporting violations or feel uneasy about doing so, your code of ethics isn’t doing much in the way of betterment. Every ethics policy in 2022 should have a segment that describes the various next steps for reporting. Having an ethics hotline, for example, is a great tool everyone can use to safely and anonymously report violations they encounter on the job. Include any internal investigation processes that might ensue as the result of a reported concern. Once you’ve outlined a clear path for reporting, reinforce the efficacy of doing so and encourage everyone to be mindful of the workplace around them.
4. Include an Anti-Retaliation Policy
Don’t presume that telling staff in a meeting that retaliation for ethics reporting is prohibited is enough. Dedicate an entire segment to defining your ethics policy on anti-retaliation. Employees might be reluctant to report a violation to their managers, for example. And essentially, reporting an integrity or ethics concern could result in the offending party’s employment termination, making it a tough witness decision. This anti-retaliation policy should include precise language about what your company will not tolerate as well as what will be guaranteed to put employees’ minds at ease.
Having a code of ethics will help establish your company’s rule book for the year. But when you’re ready to incorporate an ethics hotline to help reinforce those policies, let Ethical Advocate help!