Ethical values provide the moral compass by which we live our lives and make decisions. They also highlight why organisations should focus on creating a shared ethical culture where employees feel empowered to do the right thing rather than simply following a set of rules.

The way we make decisions is important for organisations because wrong or badly implemented decisions can significantly impact people’s lives and the reputation of organisations. But when we make decisions based on good principles, and live by good values, we can improve the lives of others and their experiences at work.

In setting out standards for the people profession, the CIPD’s Profession Map  includes ethics under ‘Core behaviours’, describing ethical practice as:

"Building trust by role-modelling ethical behaviour and applying principles and values consistently in decision-making."

Therefore, it’s vital that people professionals can define ethical behaviour, identify unethical behaviour, and take steps to create a shared ethical culture accordingly.

In this guide, we discuss the red flags to watch out for, along with practical tips and resources to safeguard your organisation and people against ethical breaches and misconduct. The guide draws on – and complements  – CIPD research, and features nine areas of action employers can prioritise to ensure they behave ethically. Please note, individual red flags may not in themselves indicate unethical behaviour, but several may be a sign of a wider issue

Ethical climate in organisations

Develop and consistently embed codes

Fairness and organisational politics


Job Design

Targets and reward

An alternative to silence: whistleblowing/speaking up




Organisational climate checklist

Download the checklist
PDF document 2.2 MB

Flowchart: how to develop and consistently embed codes

Download the flowchart
PDF document 2.4 MB

Speaking up checklist

Download the checklist
PDF document 2.1 MB

Discussion prompts for workforce training

Download the prompts
PDF document 2.5 MB

Transparent decision checklist

Download the checklist
PDF document 2.7 MB

Further resources


More on this topic

Bitesize research
Using algorithms to make decisions ethically and responsibly

Algorithms can help speed decisions and help organisations to operate more efficiently or profitably, but what are the pitfalls particularly from an ethical perspective?

For Members
Bitesize research
How do employees respond to electronic performance monitoring?

Research investigates what factors influence employees’ responses to electronic performance monitoring

For Members
Ethical practice and the role of people professionals

Explores the role people professionals play in applying ethical values to organisational practice

Bitesize research
The ethics of meaning and purpose at work

The ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI) for meaningful work

For Members

Latest guides

People manager guide: Supporting employee resilience

Practical guidance on helping employees adapt and thrive when faced with workplace stress

For Members
Resilience: Guide for people professionals to support employees

Advice and tips on how HR professionals can support organisational and individual resilience

For Members
Internships that work: Guide for employers

Guidance for employers on starting or improving an internship programme, including a checklist and model agreement

For Members
Mediation: An approach to resolving workplace issues

Practical advice on how to use this approach as part of your wider conflict management strategy

For Members
All guides