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Corporate Culture

Is yours Fit for Purpose?

In 2018 the Institute of Business Ethics carried out a survey of employee's attitudes to ethics and culture in the workplace.  Their key findings are surprising:

  • 19% of employees felt that honesty was not practiced daily in their workplace.
  • 24% of employees were aware of misconduct at work (treating people inappropriately, bullying, harassment and safety violations).
  • 12% of employees have felt pressured to compromise ethical standards.

Organisations who do not focus on creating a safe place of work risk:

  • Reputational damage.
  • The loss of talent as intolerance towards inappropriate behaviour increases and then challenges recruiting.
  • Focusing more resources on dealing with disputes in the workplace whether grievances or disciplinary processes.
  • At worst, having to defend litigation.

The number of tribunal claims has increased rapidly particularly since the abolition of fees in 2017.  This together with employees' rights to make Data Subject Access Requests, mean that a failure to create an appropriate culture, can become hugely costly, time consuming and damaging. 

What many companies fail to recognise is that individuals can sue not only the organisation but individual managers and colleagues too.  There is also no limit on the amount of compensation awarded in discrimination cases.

There may also be obligations to report inappropriate behaviour to a regulator and if employees report matters to the police, co-operation in a criminal investigation. 

In regulated industries (such as financial services) inappropriate behaviour and culture can also lead to the end of individual careers if found guilty of bullying, harassment or discrimination.

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The challenge is therefore to prevent issues arising in the first place.  Creating the right culture is the single most important step that organisations can take.  However it can be challenging particularly in traditionally male dominated industries such as finance, rail or construction.  Managers need to understand that "workplace banter" is not always acceptable and unconscious bias needs to be challenged.

Of course issues cannot be eliminated altogether.  Organisations need to ensure that every allegation is properly investigated.  Many employers who are well intentioned, undermine their handling of situations through poor investigations and a lack of consideration of things like anonymity and confidentiality.

Awareness is rising and there is a greater intolerance towards poor corporate culture and governance.

In auditing whether or not your corporate culture is healthy, it would be a mistake to assume that just because you have not had any complaints that you have a healthy culture.  It may be that your employees do not feel confident to speak up.

Ranjit small

Ranjit Dhindsa  has over 20 years’ experience as an Employment Lawyer and is currently a member of the Field Fisher’s Executive Committee.


For further thoughts download our free tip sheet below, and do contact us to discuss how we can help you protect your organisation and change your culture for the better.

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