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MBA402 Governance Ethics And Sustainability10

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Question

Discuss about the:-

Business ethics and diversity in the modern workplace.

Workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying.

International handbook on whistleblowing research.

Australian Disability Discrimination Act Information.

 

Answer:

Introduction

This code of conduct is designed with the aim to ensure adherence to highest professional and ethical standards in the course of the conduct of the business of the Commonwealth Bank. In addition to this, the intention is to ensure the statutory and the legal compliance of the Corporations Act, 2001, Australian Stock Exchange, the Australian Accounting Standards, the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and all the relevant laws, regulations and practices in relation to the banking and the guarantee services (Commonwealth Bank, 2017). The code of conduct is in addition to the various policies of the organisation on the lines of the business gifts, anti-money laundering, dress code guidelines and the policy on the employment of the relatives.

Applicability

The code of conduct is applicable to the board of the directors, employees and all the members of the organisation.

 

Discrimination

The organisation understands its responsibility of creating a work environment on the pillars of the mutual respect, professionalism, integrity and dignity, as has been prescribed in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), along with the federal and the state anti-discrimination laws (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2018). The unlawful discrimination refers to the favourable treatment at the workplace because of a characteristic protected by law. As prescribed in the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, few of the 18 personal characteristics that make discrimination in employment against the law are race, colour, nationality, origin, religion, sex, pregnancy or marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and age (Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission, 2018).

The discrimination can take place at the organisation at various stages and the forms. This can occur during the recruitment process in the manner in which the interview is conducted and offering of unfair terms and conditions of the employment (Loudon, McPhail and Wilkinson, 2015). In addition to this, the unjustified or favourable selection for training, transfer, denial for promotion and unfair retrenchment, dismissal and demotion also fall in the category of the unlawful discrimination (Gaze and Smith, 2016).

Some of the examples of discrimination at the workplace are denial to promotion because of the pregnancy, dismissing an employee because of ill health, preference of promotions based on the ethnicity (Cox and Knoth, 2017) . The aim of the organisation is to strive to maintain a disciplined, healthy and ethical work environment, and where the conflicts are resolved in a polite manner. The managers and leaders must ensure that the various aspects of the employment relationship are free from any personal bias and are based on individual performance, merit and objectivity.

 

Exploitation

The code of conduct of the organisation expressly prohibits the officials and employees to engage in sexual harassment, bullying behaviour and the unlawful exploitation activities. As stated in the section 789FD of the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013 (Cth), bullying refers to the unreasonable behaviour of an individual or a group of individuals towards a worker (Fair Work Commission, 2018). This includes behaviour that creates a risk to health and safety (Appelbaum, Semerjian and Mohan, 2012). Bullying includes a range of activities which are listed as follows. The list is not exhaustive.

  • Using offensive language or yelling;
  • Acts leading to psychological harassment;
  • Exclusion or isolation of employees
  • Assigning impossible jobs or meaningless tasks unrelated to the job;
  • Criticising the employees on a constant basis or suppressing their ideas; and many more such kind of activities.

Harassment provisions are mentioned in a number of legislation, some of them are mentioned as following.

  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984, states the definition of sexual harassment in the section 28A, which includes an unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome conduct which is sexually offensive to the other person, request for sexual favour, and more such related activities (Austlii, 2018). The above activities lead to humiliation or intimidation.
  • According to the section 25 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, anemployee’s disability should not be used as a ground for harassment (Disabled world, 2018).  

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), some examples of harassment are sending sexually offensive emails or text messages, unwelcome physical contact, displaying of pornographic posters or racially offensive content, telling insulting jokes about sexual preference or appearance of any person and many more.

The employees, officers and the managers are required to be aware of their behaviour at the workplace. This would include compliance with the obligations while conducting or conversing verbally, in writing, through email, or via text messaging and other such channels at the workplace.

Corruption

The organisation works on the lines of the zero-tolerance policy for bribery and corruption. Corrupt or the fraudulent activities involve theft of money, data or the property of the entity; deliberate falsification, concealment or the destruction of the documents of the information in the information technology systems of the entity; and include the acts of bribery (Vickers, 2014).

Bribe refers to the act of influencing a person’s actions or decisions to gain or retain a business advantage and is induced by anything of value given or offered, promised, accepted or authorised to accept either directly or indirectly, whether in monetary terms or not (Zgheib, 2014).

The employees and officers should not accept gifts, entertainment, any kind of incentive from the current, the potential customers, or the suppliers unless they are allowed to do so as per the business gifts guidelines. The employees or the officers should be allowed to do so only with the approval of the senior management. In addition to this, the employees must not provide the products or the services to the customers if it is suspected or awareness of the fact that the proceeds of the same would be directly or indirectly used in the criminal or illegal activities.  

It is regarded as the duty of the employees and the officers to report it to the leaders or the appropriate authorities about the suspected fraud or the corrupt activity occurring in the entity. This would be in addition to the persuasive behaviour of the colleagues or the customers to depart from the anti-corruption or anti-bribery policies or procedures of the company. The failure to do so would itself be regarded as fraud itself.

 

Dishonest and Fraudulent Behaviour

Conflict of interest and the resulting fraudulent behaviour can arise at various levels. This can occur at an employee level, directors’ level and the overall group level because of the placing of the individual or personal interests ahead of that of customers, stakeholders and organisation as a whole (Cubbage and Brooks, 2016). Dishonest behaviour can take place in the form of dealings with the vendors, customers, other entities, acquaintances and relatives. Thus, the employees and officers must not engage in the following types of activities. The list laid down below is not exhaustive.

  • Entering into professional engagements outside the organisation.
  • Taking a business decision in favour of self or the relatives and the acquaintances that are detrimental to the interest of the organisation.
  • Using the confidential information possessed during the course of the services, for the personal benefits (Reamer, 2013).
  • Using the facilities of the bank, employees or properties for the purpose of to be used in the personal activities.
  • Accepting gifts, favours or other benefits, in other than the normal course of the business that may be in the position of influencing the business of the commercial decisions.

Whistleblower Protections

As mentioned above, the code expressly prohibits the direct or indirect engagement in unlawful discrimination, exploitation on the lines of sexual harassment and bullying, dishonest or fraudulent behaviour and the corrupt activities. The matters may be in the form of breach of one or more of the legal or regulatory requirements, policies or guidelines of the organisation. Any employee, director, consultant or any other person, who wishes to or attempts to report in connection with the above-mentioned misconducts, whether anonymously or not, is known as the whistleblower (Brown, Lewis, Moberly and Vandekerckhove, 2014). It is essential that there is comfortable and upfront response in the form of raising the concerned matters that are of critical importance.

The code of conduct expressly would provide protection expressly against reprisal for having made the said reporting of the misconduct.

Whom to report?

Whistleblower Protection Officer (WPO): He or she is a designated representative specifically tasked with the responsibility of protecting as well as safeguarding the interests of whistleblowers, as mentioned above. The WPO along with the financial, legal and operational advisers as required would work towards the fulfilment of the various provisions of the code of conduct and the guidelines in relation to the same.

Whistleblower Investigations Officer (WIO): The representative is tasked with the responsibility of conducting preliminary investigations into reports received from the whistleblowers and the prima facie allegations made therein. The WIO is charged with the prime role of investigating the substance and the materiality of the complaints. Accordingly, he or she would either collect the pieces of evidence in support of the claim or refute the report to be baseless.

Reporting framework

Internal Reporting. It is the responsibility of the immediate senior managers to interact with the whistleblowers and provide adequate support to them if they wish to discuss the matter. The leaders would provide the opportune time to clarify the incident, ask questions and discussions are required to remain confidential at all the times.

External Reporting. Alternatively, the whistleblower may choose to report the misconducts, anonymously if preferred. The reporting can be done via call, post or the email of the whistleblower or the investigation committee.

Others

Some of the other guidelines are as follows.

  • Non-engagement in the insider trading activities of the employees or managers, because of having access to the material, non-public information.
  • Compliance with the regulations relating to KYC and Money Laundering.
  • Protect the personal privacy and the confidentiality about the information of the staff members and the customers.
  • Maintaining business relationships and indulging in fair competition.
  • Co-ordination with the federal, the state governments, and various regulators.
  • Maintaining accurate company records and adhering with the reporting requirements.
  • The media communications on the behalf of the organisation would only be made by the person authorised to do so. Accordingly, individuals must be careful about their behaviour, comments or activities in the social domain, so that it does not paramount to be done on the behalf of the organisation unless specifically provided to do so.
  • The employees must follow general behaviour guidelines with respect to the property of the organisation, information technology systems, dress code, smoking, littering, consuming alcohol, health and safety rules and more.
 

Enforcement

The enforcement of the code of conduct is mandatory on an ongoing basis and the board is granted the powers to take the necessary action in respect to the violations if any. Inappropriate or the unethical behaviour may result in the compromising of the bank’s reputation. The exploitation of the authority and the position directly or indirectly to the benefit of self or relatives or any acquaintances would be taken seriously. Hence, the employees, officers, managers, customers, suppliers and the third parties must immediately report such issues to the following mentioned persons according to the procedure laid down in the whistleblower protection section of the code of conduct.

The violation of the code or any of the guidelines mentioned therein would result in disciplinary action and the employees would be liable to the one or more of the following penalties with respect to the breach of the code of conduct.

  • Warning
  • Revision or withholding of the pay
  • Withholding of promotion
  • Reduction to the lower grade of employment
  • Termination of service
  • Recovery from the salary for the losses caused to the organisation due to negligence or breach of the code of conduct and the related policies and guidelines.

Affirmation

All the departmental heads and the senior managers are required to affirm the compliance with the code on an annual basis. The affirmation will be provided in the prescribed form on the organisation's website.

 

References

Appelbaum, S. H., Semerjian, G. and Mohan, K. (2012) Workplace bullying: consequences, causes and controls (part two). Industrial and Commercial Training, 44(6), pp. 337-344.

Austlii. (2018) Sex Discrimination Act 1984. [online] Available from: https://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sda1984209/index.html [Accessed on 17/08/18].

Australian Human Rights Commission. (2018) Workplace discrimination, harassment and bullying. [online] Available from: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/employers/good-practice-good-business-factsheets/workplace-discrimination-harassment-and-bullying [Accessed on 17/08/18].

Brown, A. J., Lewis, D., Moberly, R. and Vandekerckhove, W. eds., (2014) International handbook on whistleblowing research. UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Commonwealth Bank. (2017) Annual Report. [online] Available from: https://www.commbank.com.au/content/dam/commbank/about-us/shareholders/pdfs/annual-reports/annual_report_2017_14_aug_2017.pdf [Accessed on 23/08/18].

Cox, M. and  Knoth, J. (2017) Australia: 4 Examples of Workplace Discrimination - MDC Legal. [online] Available from: https://www.mondaq.com/australia/x/566138/employee+rights+labour+relations/4+Examples+of+Workplace+Discrimination+MDC+Legal [Accessed on 18/08/18].

Cubbage, C. J., and Brooks, D. J. (2016) Corporate Security in the Asia-Pacific Region: Crisis, Crime, Fraud, and Misconduct. United States: CRC Press.

Disabled World. (2018) Australian Disability Discrimination Act Information. [online] Available from: https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/australia/ [Accessed on 18/08/18].

Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., Zapf, D. and Cooper, C. (2010) Bullying and harassment in the workplace: Developments in theory, research, and practice. United States: CRC Press.

Fair Work Commission. (2018) Anti-bullying. [online] Available from: https://www.fwc.gov.au/disputes-at-work/anti-bullying [Accessed on 17/08/18].

Gaze, B., and Smith, B. (2016) Equality and Discrimination Law in Australia: An Introduction. Australia: Cambridge University Press.

Loudon, R., McPhail, R. and Wilkinson, A. (2015) Introduction to Employment Relations. Australia: Pearson Higher Education AU.

Reamer, F.G., 2013. Social work values and ethics. United States: Columbia University Press.

Vickers, M. H. (2014) Towards reducing the harm: Workplace bullying as workplace corruption—A critical review. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 26(2), pp. 95-113.

Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission. (2018) Discrimination – Workplace. [online] Available from: https://www.humanrightscommission.vic.gov.au/the-workplace/workplace-discrimination [Accessed on 22/08/18].

Zgheib, P. W. ed., (2014) Business ethics and diversity in the modern workplace. United States: IGI Global.

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