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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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CIPD to boost enforcement for HR code of conduct


The CIPD is attempting to boost the professionalism of the HR industry by strengthening its code of conduct and boosting its complaints and disciplinary procedures to ensure more effective enforcement.

The revised code of professional conduct, which is due to come into force for all Institute members on 1 July, was drawn up by a steering group that included senior members of the profession.
It was based on an extensive consultation and replaces the current code, which will remain in place until 30 June. The new code lays out its requirements for each member’s conduct under four key headings:
  • Professional competence and behaviour
  • Ethical standards and integrity
  • Acting as a representative of the profession
  • Stewardship.
Vicky Wright, chair of the CIPD’s nominations and professional conduct committee and immediate past president, said: “Our new code of professional conduct is an evolution of our existing code. But it also marks a raising of the bar in terms of the maintenance and enforcement of clear, simple, rigorous standards in HR professional practice.”
The new complaints and disciplinary procedures, meanwhile, were “crucial to ensuring that the CIPD has the tools and capacity to maintain and uphold the highest standards in HR practice by its members”, she added.
Designed by members, they differ from former procedures in that investigatory and discplinary activities have now been separated out. “This represents the establishment of modern best-practice self-regulation for the HR profession, and for the greater good,” Wright said.
Under the old procedures, investigations were led by the Institute’s secretary, who would pass cases on to a disciplinary panel drawn from members of the Nominations and Professional Conduct Committee (a subcommitee of the CIPD’s board) if it was deemed necessary.
Under the new procedures, however, two voluntary, member-based ‘pools’ will be set up – an investigation pool (CIPD members only) and a disciplinary pool (members and expert non-members).
If the investigation panel, which will comprise three pool members, determines that there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that an individual has breached the Insitute’s code of conduct, their case will be referred to the disciplinary panel, which will likewise comprise three members taken from its respective pool.
If HR professionals are found to have been in breach of the code, they will be subject to as yet unspecified penalties.

2 Responses

  1. New code

    Way overdue many people might say (and have said on other forums)!

    Re the requirement to “challenge others if they suspect unlawful or unethical conduct or behaviour”. I can see that being both a good thing and a bad thing.

    From a good point, this might give HR professionals a legitimate ‘third party’ obligation, and the courage, to stand up to the company’s in-house solicitors or legal advisers who often dictate, and have the final say, regarding the actions to be taken in an employee grievance/disciplinary situation (particularly where there is the potential for a Tribunal claim). Lawful and ethical behaviour do not always equate to the same thing.

    (Employment) Solicitors intentionally do not have a ‘code of ethics’ imposed on them by their profession. It would inhibit them from following their expectations and standards of service, and prevent them from doing their job. I don’t mean that to sound critical, it’s just the way it is.

    The down side is that the majority of HR professionals, who are expected to intervene in employees relations issues and provide advice to employees/managers, don’t usually have the final say in matters. They are often expected to ‘go along’ with decisions and actions taken by senior managers and lawyers. Decisions and actions that can be highly unethical. Thus, they will face a new dilemma on top of the one that existed already. Not only will they have to continue to live with their conscience after being ‘forced’ to turn a blind eye to unethical decisions and actions taken by others, they will now have to worry about the possibility of being ‘reported’ to their professional body for ignoring/not challenging unethical behaviour.

    In principle, I think the new code is a necessary and valid requirement for the HR profession, but I think that it may not have encompassed or fully accommodated the realities of working life for the majority of HR staff.

    I wish your profession, and the CIPD, the best of luck with it.

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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Cath Everett

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