Ethics at Work 2018: Australia

Publication type: Survey
27 November 2018

Tags: Speak Up, Ethics Programme issues, Treatment of Employees

This survey report describes the Australian findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research.

Speed read

Key findings

  • 24% of employees have been aware of misconduct during the past year at work
  • Yet 35% of those workers decided not to speak up
  • When asked what influenced their decision, 32% said they felt speaking up might jeopardise their job; 27% did not believe that corrective action  would be taken. 
  • Of those aware of misconduct at work, the most common types were bullying and harassment (41%), inappropriate or unethical treatment of people (39%) and misreporting of working hours (32%)
  • 1 in 10 (13%) have felt pressured to compromise their organisation's ethical standards in the workplace
  • Only 29% say that their organisation has a comprehensive formal ethics programme, while 10% say that their organisation offers no work ethics-­related information, training or support channels
  • 70% of NZ employees say their organisation has written standards of ethical business conduct that provides guidelines for their job
  • 56% of NZ employees say their organisation provides employees with a means of reporting misconduct confidentially (compared with 61% in Australia and 64% in the UK)
  • Less than half of NZ employees (46%) have access to advice or an information helpline where they can get advice about behaving ethically at work
  • 51% of NZ employees are given training on standards of ethical conduct (compared with 59% in Australia and 56% in the UK).


The IBE’s Ethics at Work survey is the only one of its kind covering Australia and New Zealand. This report take a deeper look at data and focuses on the responses from Australian employees. It asks employees how they experience ethics in their day-to-day working lives and how they perceive corporate ethical culture. It looks at whether they have witnessed misconduct; whether they have reported it; and what if anything stops them from doing so, answering questions such as:

  • What are Australian employees’ perception of honesty, misconduct and speaking up?
  • What pressures are Australian employees under to compromise ethical standards?

It provides real insight into employees’ views on ethics across all sectors and job roles. It also examines the impact of formal ethics programmes on embedding ethical values into organisational culture and influencing behaviour.This is the first time that the survey, first introduced in the UK in 2005, has been conducted in Australia and New Zealand. It asks employees how they experience ethical dilemmas in their day­to­day working lives. It looks at whether they have witnessed misconduct; whether they have reported it; and what if anything stops them from doing so.
Over 2,000 employees were surveyed across Australia, New Zealand and the UK, including 752 in Australia.