Ethics at Work Index: 82.4
Overall, Australian employees seem to have a positive perception of many aspects of ethics at work. Ethics programmes seem to be relatively common in Australian organisations and more common than in the past, particularly with regards to the provision of ethics training. The percentage of employees who have been aware of misconduct is relatively low and those who are aware of misconduct are likely to speak up about it.
However, retaliation is an issue that needs addressing. Many of those who raise their concerns about misconduct experience retaliation as a result and it is one of the main reasons why some employees do not raise their concerns when they become aware of the misconduct. Looking ahead, discrimination or bias in the workplace is the issue that concern Australian employees the most.
- In 2021, 86% of Australian employees say that honesty is practised always or frequently in their organisation, which is in line with the global average (86%). In 2018, 84% of Australian employees said so.
- The percentage of employees who have felt pressured to compromise their organisation’s standards of behaviour has decreased slightly in Australia compared to 2018 (11% vs 13%). The main source of pressure for Australian employees is due to following their boss’s orders (37%), followed by time pressure/unrealistic deadlines (32%).
- Employees in Australia are significantly less likely to say that they have been aware of misconduct at work compared to 2018 (14% vs 24%). Of all the countries surveyed, they are among the least likely to say that they have been aware of misconduct, after Germany (10%).
- In Australia, 63% of employees that have been aware of misconduct at work have spoken up about it with management, another appropriate person, or through any other mechanism. This makes Australia one of the countries with the highest percentage of employees who say so, together with the US (76%) and South Africa (67%). This figure for Australia hasn’t changed compared to 2018.
- 62% of Australian employees who have spoken up about the misconduct they have been aware of are also satisfied with the outcome (62%), which is in line with the global average (62%).
- The main reasons why employees do not raise their concerns are that they felt they might jeopardise their job (42%) and that they felt it might alienate themselves from their colleagues (29%).
- However, they are also among the most likely to experience retaliation after they raised concerns about misconduct (53%), together with their French colleagues (60%).
The ethics programme
- Employees in Australia are more likely than average to say that they are aware of each of the four building blocks of an ethics programme that were considered. For example, 75% of Australian employees are aware of written standards of ethical business conduct in their organisation, compared to a global average of 67%.
- They are also more likely to be aware of each of the four building blocks of an ethics programme compared to 2018. The biggest increase has been recorded in relation to ethics training (67% vs 59% in 2018).
Embedding ethics through a supportive environment
- The vast majority of respondents in Australia say that their line manager sets a good example of ethical business behaviour (76%), that their line manager supports them in following their organisation’s standards of ethical behaviour (75%) and that senior management takes ethics seriously (78%). However, almost two in five (38%) thinks that their line manager rewards employees who get good results even if they use practices that are ethically questionable, which is higher than the global average (32%).
- Employees in Australia seem to have positive views of how their organisation engages with external stakeholders: 80% says that their organisation acts responsibly in all its business dealings and 72% that it lives up to its stated policy of social responsibility.
- They are also more likely than average to say that people in their organisation know what is expected of them in terms of ethical behaviour (83% vs 78% global average), that in their organisation decisions about people are made fairly (71% vs 65% global average) and that issues of right and wrong are discussed in staff meetings (62% vs 58% global average).
- 66% of them say that their organisation disciplines employees who violate its ethical standards. The global average is 63%.
Current and future issues
- 41% of employees in Australia say that considering their organisation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, their opinion on how ethically their organisation behaves has improved. This figure is higher than the global average (37%). Only 6% say that it has worsened, while 52% say that it has stayed the same.
- With regards to the future of the workplace, discrimination or bias in the workplace is the issue that Australian employees are more likely to be concerned about (43%), followed by the loss of interpersonal interactions due to the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown, misuse of Artificial Intelligence for unethical behaviour and automated machines or Artificial Intelligence replacing humans in the workplace (all at 40%).