Q&A on codes of conduct

Q&A on Code of Conduct

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Codes of conduct are a must for modern business. But what purpose do they actually serve? We set out to answer the most common questions about them.

In its simplest form, it’s a set of guidelines that details acceptable standards of behaviour and conduct in the workplace and establishes the ground rules for professional behaviour and responsibility.

Because it gives staff a clear and thorough understanding of the standards and expectations they must uphold in the performance of their job.

No – it covers staff when they are: performing in the workplace; undertaking business trips; attending any work or work-related functions; and representing the business in any capacity.

Yes, as the code should be generic enough to cover every employee. In fact it’s especially crucial for management to follow it because they set the tone for how strictly the company is seen to adhere to its own policies.

Inclusions will differ across industries, countries and companies, but here are some of the more general inclusions that can feature.

In a word, no. You must take steps to ensure it is both implemented and publicised. Here are some ways to ensure staff are across it.

However it is done for each employee, it’s important to have staff sign a document acknowledging they have read and understood the code of conduct so there can be no claims of ignorance if they breach it.

There’s many different ways you could do this. For example, if the code of conduct lists generic provisions that govern where people take cigarette breaks, back it up by physically showing them places that are acceptable. Similarly, if the code forbids the use of social media on company computers, make sure you talk them through every website this includes, not just letting them assume it applies only to obvious candidates such as Facebook and twitter.

It’s impossible to set a timeline, but the simple answer is that when the environment in which you operate has changed significantly, as has the way you do business, then it’s time for an upgrade. These changes could be anything from new government legislation to a move from a bricks and mortar store to an online shopfront. Remember, too, that when it is updated you will need to go through the above educational process again (even if it’s only for part of the code) and ensure employees sign a document to say that have read and understood the update.

    1. Get initial input on inclusions from all areas of the business – from the chief executive to human resources, marketing, administration and more.


    1. Keep the language simple and to the point. Don’t try and speak in ‘lawyer’ talk and throw out the thesaurus – no one appreciates an unnecessarily long word or sentence.


  1. Write a draft and then circulate it heavily for feedback. Then, when it comes back, pay attention and make changes accordingly to produce a final version that is accurate, informative, easy to understand, and accessible.

Do you have any questions or great tips to share?
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