Millennials have a relaxed attitude to unethical behaviour in the workplace, a new report from professional services firm EY has suggested.

Across EMEIA, 73 per cent of Generation Y (25 to 34 year olds) respondents to its biennial fraud survey stated that unethical behaviour was justified to help a business survive, compared to 49 per cent of Generation X (45 to 54 year olds). Sixty-eight per cent of those in Generation Y also believed their management would engage in this sort of behaviour, while 25 per cent said they would offer cash payments to win or retain business.

“This generation is the future of our businesses. If companies do not take action now to combat unethical conduct at all levels of their organisations, such behaviours may increase in the future,” said the report.

The ‘Human instinct or machine logic – which do you trust most in the fight against fraud and corruption?’ report suggested that senior management is failing to foster a culture of ethical behaviour, with 57 per cent of MENA respondents feeling management has not emphasised the importance of high ethical standards.

Forty-three per cent of MENA respondents felt that issues with bribery and corruption were still a problem in their country but 48 per cent believed regulation has had a positive impact– much higher than the global average of 28 per cent. Meanwhile, 83 per cent said they believed the prosecution of individuals involved in this kind of activity would deter fraud, bribery and corruption by executives.

Michael Adlem, EY MENA fraud investigation and dispute services leader, said reporting incidents of unethical behaviour still remains an issue. “Employees are either unaware of the correct channels, or more worryingly are apprehensive to highlight wrongdoing, which shows a lack of leadership from senior management to tackle the issue,” he said.

The report also found that although ‘whistleblowing hotlines’ were now considered an important part of a company’s compliance programme, knowledge of them was not widespread, with only 21 per cent of MENA respondents aware if such channels existed at their organisation. Fifty-one per were concerned their career progression would be affected if they called out unethical practices, while 49 per cent said they feared for their personal safety.

“Companies need to create more awareness about their whistleblowing channels and communicate appropriate processes to ensure employees know where to go when they encounter unethical practices,” added Adlem.

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