Integrate Business Ethics in Human Resources Practices

This section is about managing the integration of business ethics in human resources
practices.
Scenario: Supporting an ethical business culture at Australian Hardware
According to the Australian Hardware code of conduct, employees and officers of
Australian Hardware are expected to:
● respect and support the six core values of the organisation:
○ quality
○ performance excellence
○ value for investors, customers and employees
○ personal and professional development
○ diversity
○ sustainability
● respect others and treat others fairly
● act in accordance with relevant legislation, standards and industry codes of
practice
● act honestly to protect the reputation of Australian Hardware
● avoid conflict of interest
● protect the privacy of others.
The organisation’s code of conduct has been designed to support the integration of
business ethics with elements of business planning, namely the business mission,
vision and strategic goals.
Connie needs to ensure business ethics are integrated into the way HR delivers
services. She will need to ensure communication and training are adequate; she will
also need to ensure delivery strategies embody and promote the values of the
organisation. Above all she will need to ensure HR personnel exemplify ethical business
partnering and leadership.
Section 4 – Integrate Business Ethics in Human Resources Practices Student Workbook
1st edition version: 1 BSBHRM501 Manage human resource services
Page 98 of 121 © 2015 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd
What skills will you need?
In order to work effectively as a human resources professional, you must be able to:
 ensure that personal behaviour is consistently ethical and reflects values of the
organisation
 ensure that the code of conduct is observed across the organisation and that its
expectations are incorporated in human resources policies and practices
 observe confidentiality requirements in dealing with all human resources
information
 deal with unethical behaviour promptly
 ensure that all persons responsible for the human resources functions are clear
about ethical expectations of their behaviour.
What are business ethics?
Business ethics can be defined as ‘the study of what constitutes right and wrong, or good
and bad, human conduct in business context’9.
Business ethics provide employees with the rules of how they should behave.
Organisations use documents such as codes of ethics and codes of conduct to
communicate to employees the expected behaviours.
Ethics and law
People often confuse ethics and law – but they are different things. Breaking the law is
not always immoral and, equally, just because an action is legal does not mean that it is
morally right. For example:
● An action can be illegal but morally right.
In 2007 Ms Janet Hinshaw-Thomas was arrested by Canadian authorities for
accompanying Haitians seeking asylum in Canada. She was charged with human
trafficking. Her lawyer said:
‘She is not running some kind of covert murky operation at all, she was doing this
on a purely humanitarian basis to assist refugees who are seeking asylum in a
country where they have a right to present their claims.’
Ms Hinshaw-Thomas had advised the Canadian Border authorities five days prior to
her trip and had provided information as to the when she would arrive and how
many refugees she had with her. Yet, she broke the law and could have spent the
rest of her life in prison for her actions.10
9 Barry, V. and Shaw, W., 2001, Moral issues in business, Wadsworth, California, p. 4.
10 Tchividjian, E., October 2007, ‘Archive: ethical and illegal’, Ruder Finn, viewed May 2015,
http://www.ruderfinn.com/blogs/ethics/2007/10.
Student Workbook Section 4 – Integrate Business Ethics in Human Resources Practices
BSBHRM501 Manage human resource services 1st edition version: 1
© 2015 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd Page 99 of 121
● An action can be legal but morally wrong.
For example, executives can retrench a large number of employees and use the
cost savings from those retrenchments to pay themselves a higher salary or bonus.
Whilst this is unethical and morally wrong it is not illegal.
There are a number of pieces of legislation that apply to organisations and employees
that human resources professionals must ensure are complied with when providing
human resources services and support. As discussed in Section 1, these include:
● Fair Work Act 2009
● work/occupational health and safety (OHS/WHS) legislation
● equal opportunity legislation
● anti-discrimination legislation.
Organisations aim to address legal and ethical obligations by developing and promoting
the use of codes of ethics, codes of conducts, policies and procedures to ensure
employees understand and have the practical tools to implement ethical practices.
Human resources professionals are responsible for ensuring that both business ethics
and legal compliance are incorporated into all human resources policies and practices.
Business ethics is often incorporated into organisational strategic planning. For example,
organisational vision statements and values statements articulate ethical principles that
all employees are expected to adhere to. HR professionals are expected to implement
company values into service delivery strategies and exemplify ethical attributes such as
fairness and openness.
Learning activity: Business ethics
Consider your organisation or an organisation you wish to research.
What legal and ethical issues are relevant to your work or operations?
Section 4 – Integrate Business Ethics in Human Resources Practices Student Workbook
1st edition version: 1 BSBHRM501 Manage human resource services
Page 100 of 121 © 2015 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd
How are legal and ethical issues managed by the organisation?
Codes of ethics and codes of conduct
Organisations use two documents to communicate expectations regarding business
ethics:
Codes of ethics Codes of conduct
Case study: The University of Western Australia – Code of ethics
Use the link below to access the University of Western Australia Code of Ethics.
● ‘Code of ethics’, University of Western Australia, viewed May 2015,
http://www.hr.uwa.edu.au/publications/code_of_ethics.
This is a good example of how codes of ethics apply in the workplace.
Codes of ethics
A code of ethics provides a set of guiding principles for the way in which employees
should behave. In comparison to a code of conduct, a code of ethics will tend to:
● have a broader focus and provide general information with regards to expected
behaviour
● provide guidance as to how employees ‘should’ behave rather than what they must
do
● set the foundation for an organisation’s code of conduct.
A code of ethics usually includes provisions such as:
● that all employees should be treated with respect and dignity
● the workplace is a safe and challenging environment where people can grow
professionally and personally.
Student Workbook Section 4 – Integrate Business Ethics in Human Resources Practices
BSBHRM501 Manage human resource services 1st edition version: 1
© 2015 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd Page 101 of 121
Learning activity: Code of ethics
Obtain a copy of an organisation’s code of ethics and review the contents to answer the
questions below.
What principles does the code of ethics provide for employee behaviour?
What sort of workplace do you think these principles provide for?
Tip: If you are currently employed you can use your organisation’s code of ethics,
however, if you are not employed you can obtain an example by searching the internet
for “code of ethics’.
Codes of conduct
A code of conduct is a continuation of organisation’s code of ethics but it provides more
specific detail with regards to what behaviour is expected by the organisation. Codes of
conduct sometimes also include the consequences for employees for failing to meet
those expectations.
Below is an example of a code of conduct for the Australian Public Service Commission
(APS). You will note that it provides very specific details of how it expects employees to
behave.
Section 4 – Integrate Business Ethics in Human Resources Practices Student Workbook
1st edition version: 1 BSBHRM501 Manage human resource services
Page 102 of 121 © 2015 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd
Australian Public Service (APS)
Code of Conduct
APS employees are required, under the Code of
Conduct, to behave at all times in a way which
upholds the APS values.
The Code
The Code of Conduct requires that an employee must:
● behave honestly and with integrity in the course of APS employment
● act with care and diligence in the course of APS employment

● when acting in connection with APS employment, treat everyone with respect and
courtesy, and without harassment
● when acting in connection with APS employment, comply with all applicable
Australian laws
● comply with any lawful and reasonable direction given by someone in the
employee’s Agency who has authority to give the direction
● maintain appropriate confidentiality about dealings that the employee has with
any Minister or Minister’s member of staff
● disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest (real or
apparent) in connection with APS employment
● use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner
● not provide false or misleading information in response to a request for
information that is made for official purposes in connection with the employee’s
APS employment
● not make improper use of:
○ inside information, or
○ the employee’s duties, status, power or authority in order to gain, or seek
to gain, a benefit or advantage for the employee or for any other person;
● at all times behave in a way that upholds the APS Values and Employment
Principles, and the integrity and good reputation of the employee’s Agency and
the APS
● while on duty overseas, at all times behave in a way that upholds the good
reputation of Australia
● comply with any other conduct requirement that is prescribed by the regulations
(regulations available here).
Source: ‘APS code of conduct’, Australian Public Service Commission, viewed May
2015, .
Student Workbook Section 4 – Integrate Business Ethics in Human Resources Practices
BSBHRM501 Manage human resource services 1st edition version: 1
© 2015 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd Page 103 of 121
Ensure the code of conduct is observed across the organisation
You will need to ensure that codes of ethics and codes of conduct are observed across
the organisation. As an HR professional, some of the ways you can do this include
ensuring HR policies and procedures – such as recruitment policies or performance
management policies – are consistent with codes of conduct. You will also need to
develop communication action plans to ensure that codes of conduct are understood and
able to be applied. You may need to undertake a training needs analysis to determine
teams or individual competencies with regard to the application or knowledge of ethical
practices and arrange required training.
You will need to show leadership by embodying the attributes and values described by the
code. You will need to:
● be honest with internal and external clients: develop a reputation for truthfulness
● ensure consistency and fairness in your personal behaviour
● eliminate the fact or appearance of conflict of interest
● monitor ethics and be seen to take ethical behaviour seriously.
Above all, you will need to act to redress breaches of the code, by acting immediately to
correct behaviour or bring the behaviour to the attention of designated persons.
Learning activity: Code of conduct
Obtain a copy of an organisation’s code of conduct and review the contents to answer
the questions below.
What specific behaviours does the code of conduct cover?
Does it make it clear to employees what is expected?
Section 4 – Integrate Business Ethics in Human Resources Practices Student Workbook
1st edition version: 1 BSBHRM501 Manage human resource services
Page 104 of 121 © 2015 Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council Ltd
Does it include information regarding the consequences for failing to meet the detailed
expectations? If yes, what are the consequences?
Tip: If you are currently employed, you can use your organisation’s code of conduct,
however, if you are not employed you can obtain a copy by searching the internet for
‘code of conduct’.

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