It is important to be able to recognise potential ethical concerns in the workplace so you can report any indicators immediately. Ethics are moral principles that affect how people make decisions and live their lives on a daily basis. It is about doing what is right for people and society and can be described as moral philosophy. The term comes from the Greek word ethos, which means custom, habit, character and disposition. Ethics are usually concerned with other people’s interests or the interests of society instead of our own, and they can affect the way we behave, encouraging us to do good instead of bad if we realise our actions would be unethical.
However, it is important to distinguish between ethical and legal issues and to identify whether a certain issue has both legal and ethical implications. For example, the legal responsibilities in children’s services are the workers duty of care to children, which states that they must report any suspected child protection issues by law. Whereas an ethical issue could involve being honest with children and colleagues, which is something that would be expected of you at work, but it is not legally required. Ethical issues don’t have any law behind them, but they can affect people around you and unethical behaviour can have serious consequences.
Examples of unethical conduct would be:
- Treating children in different ways and not equally
- Avoiding to help a child or young person because you don’t like them
- Not giving certain children or families the help and advice they need
- Buying gifts for children or young people
- Asking them for personal information about themselves or their family
- Talking to them about personal issues
- Meeting the child or young person outside of the workplace
- Interfering with the child or their family outside of the workplace
- Building a personal relationship with them that goes beyond your role.
Modified from sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/intro_1.shtml, http://ncac.acecqa.gov.au/educator-resources/pcf-articles/Ethics_a_part%20_of_everyday_practice_Mar09.pdf. Accessed on 20/10/2016.
It is important that you are professional and follow workplace policies, procedures and code of conduct when carrying out your role. You should adhere to them at all times to ensure you are behaving ethically and in the way that the company expects you to. If you notice any ethical concerns in the workplace by other members of staff then you should speak to your supervisor so they can investigate it further. It is important to report anything unethical to help children and protect them from harm.
If anyone asks you for advice regarding an ethical dilemma they are dealing with, you should advise them to speak to their supervisor and refer to the code of conduct and use it as a guide to making their decision. You should avoid offering advice to people in the workplace as it could land you in trouble if it turns out to be incorrect advice, and it could also have serious consequences for everyone involved.