According to a study by the Institute for Business Ethics (IBE), although 28% of continental Europeans were aware of misconduct, only half actually reported it.
While stealing remained the most frequently-mentioned type of misconduct, the IBE also found there has been a significant increase in the number of employees witnissing discrimination at work.
“Attitudes of indifference (‘It’s none of my business’) and the belief that no corrective action would be taken (can) deter employees who are aware of misconduct from raising their concerns,” said Simon Webley, IBE research director, in a report by People Management.
“Businesses need to work harder at communicating the importance of speaking up, and supporting staff who do.”
The survey also found a significant rise in the number of organisations that have basic ethics policies in place. These include written standards on ethical business behaviour, anonymous mechanisms for reporting misconduct, in-house training on ethical standards, and an information helpline for staff concerned about ethical issues.
But while growing, the total number of these firms remains low. Just 53% of employee respondents said their organisation had written standards on ethical business behaviour in place, and only 31% said their organisation had an anonymous “speak up” mechanism.
Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive, commented: “HR professionals need to take a lead in ensuring trust and ethics are maintained, and create an environment in which wrongdoing can be reported. In the wake of recent business scandals, it is up to HR to engage with business leaders.”