29 October 2013
How to create a workplace code of conduct
A code of conduct can give your employees clear guidelines on what you expect of them, and help to maintain productivity, avoid grievances and give a good impression to customers and suppliers. This guide outlines the steps to follow to create and implement a workplace code of conduct.
1. Be clear about what you want to achieve with a code. Perhaps staff morale is low, or you’ve had a problem with disputes between colleagues or inappropriate behaviour at a workplace event. A code of conduct should eliminate “grey areas” around acceptable behaviour, as well as giving you a point of reference should problems arise in future.
2. Decide what to include in the code. Broadly, it should promote your business’ values by giving guidance to staff on how you expect them to behave in the workplace, and how they should conduct themselves with customers, suppliers and even members of the public.
3. Be specific where necessary. For example, state that staff must arrive by a certain time each day, answer the phone in a certain way, wear appropriate clothing or only use the internet during their lunch hour.
4. Ensure it fits with your firm’s true values. If you try to make drastic changes to your business’ culture it may be hard to enforce. Consider what is most important to productivity and staff morale. For example, is it essential that employees dress formally or work 9 to 5?
5. Try to accommodate staff requests when putting together your code. If you engage employees, they are more likely to comply. Hold a meeting to discuss your ideas and encourage feedback.
6. Be flexible where necessary and take into account individual circumstances. For example, if your code says you won’t tolerate lateness, you risk putting staff with caring responsibilities at a disadvantage. Instead, spell out acceptable reasons for being late.
7. Make your code of conduct a formal policy ― ensure you add it to staff contracts or handbooks. In order to make any contractual changes, you must consult with employees and ask them to sign their agreement.
8. Communicate your code of conduct by sending round an email or pinning a copy on the wall as a visible reminder.
9. Implement your code of conduct by ensuring that you and other senior staff set a good example, and by making staff aware that breaches of the code will be followed up.
10. Deal with breaches promptly. Some behaviour may also be a breach of employment law — for example, an employee harassing a colleague or making discriminatory jokes. These may force you to take serious action, but for less serious offences a quiet word is likely to be sufficient. Refer to the Acas code of practice on discipline and grievance procedures for guidance.
• Always follow the code yourself to set a good example
• Consult with employees
• Tell staff that you will follow up breaches of the code
• Impose inflexible rules that discriminate against certain employees
• Make changes to contracts without agreement
• Try to drastically change your business’ culture