Writing a code of conduct

As a business owner, you will have certain expectations of how your staff should behave. Having a written code of conduct is important, as it provides clear instructions about what your staff can and can't do.

What a code of conduct should include

The most common sections to include in a code of conduct are:

  • ethical principles - includes workplace behaviour and respect for all people
  • values - includes an honest, unbiased and unprejudiced work environment
  • accountability - includes taking responsibility for your own actions, ensuring appropriate use of information, exercising diligence and duty of care obligations and avoiding conflicts of interest
  • standard of conduct - includes complying with the job description, commitment to the organisation and proper computer, internet and email usage
  • standard of practice - includes current policies and procedures and business operational manual
  • disciplinary actions - includes complaints handling and specific penalties for any violation of the code.

You can customise the different sections in your code of conduct to match your business requirements and the rules and policies you set for your staff. Search the internet for samples and templates or use another organisation's code of conduct as a guide.

Getting staff input

When writing your code of conduct, you should consult your staff and stakeholders for their input. Consider how you will include their input in your document. Questions you might like to ask staff include:

  • What does ethics mean to you?
  • How effectively does the business put its values into practice?
  • Can we improve our ethical performance?
  • What do you think of the draft ethical guidelines?
  • Would this code of conduct help you make decisions?
  • How could it be more helpful?
  • Is there anything else we should include?

Tips for writing a code of conduct

  • Use simple, clear language that all employees can understand.
  • Use examples of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour to clarify points.
  • Get someone else to read the document before finalising it. A friend or family member can help, but a professional proofreader would be best.

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