Ethics at Work 2018: United Kingdom

Publication type: Survey
13 September 2018

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

This survey report describes the UK findings of our 2018 Ethics at Work research and provides comparison with the European average from the eight countries surveyed.

Speed read

Key findings

  • UK employees seem to take a more lenient approach than the average European employee to questionable workplace practices
  • Pretending to be sick to take a day off; minor fiddling/exaggeration of travel expenses and charging personal entertainment to expenses are considered the most unacceptable practices in the UK, in line with views from employees across Europe
  • One in eight (12%) respondents in the UK say that they have felt some form of pressure to compromise their organisation’s ethical standards (compared with 16% across Europe) - but this has increased from 8% in 2015
  • A quarter (24%) of UK employees say they have been aware of misconduct, which is below the European average of 30%) - however, this is the highest it has been since 2005
  • Two thirds (67%) of those who had witnessed misconduct had raised their concerns compared with the European average of 54% - this is a 12 percentage point increase from the 2015 figure and shows an increased willingness of employees to raise concerns.


The IBE’s Ethics at Work survey is the only one of its kind covering Europe. This report takes a deeper look at data and focuses on the responses from UK 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:

  • How does their experience of ethics in their workplaces differ from that of the average European employee?
  • What are UK employees’ perception of honesty, misconduct and speaking up?
  • What pressures are UK employees under to compromise ethical standards?

It provides real insight into employees’ views on ethics across all sectors and job roles, and offers a context for employee experiences across Europe. It also examines the impact of formal ethics programmes on embedding ethical values into organisational culture and influencing behaviour.

Over 6,000 employees were surveyed across Europe, including 764 in France. The IBE has asked similar questions of the British workforce every three years since 2005.