How to create a workplace code of conduct

  1. Be clear about what you want your code to achieve. Perhaps staff morale is low, or you’ve had a problem with disputes between colleagues or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. A code should eliminate grey areas around acceptable behaviour, as well as giving you a point of reference should problems arise in the future.
  2. Decide what to include in the code. Broadly, it should promote your business values by providing guidance to staff on how you expect them to behave in the workplace, and how they should conduct themselves with customers, suppliers and even members of the public.
  3. Be specific where necessary. For example, state that staff must arrive by a certain time each day, answer the phone in a certain way, wear appropriate clothing or only use the internet during their lunch hour.
  4. Ensure it fits with your firm’s values. If you try to make drastic changes to your business’ culture, it may be hard to enforce. Consider what is most important to productivity and staff morale. For example, is it essential that employees dress formally or work 9 to 5?
  5. Be flexible and take into account individual circumstances. For example, if your code says you won’t tolerate lateness, you risk putting staff with caring responsibilities at a disadvantage.
  6. Make your code of conduct a formal policy. Ensure you add it to staff contracts or handbooks. In order to make any contractual changes, you must consult with employees and ask them to sign their agreement.
  7. Communicate your code of conduct by sending round an email or pinning a copy on the wall as a visible reminder.
  8. Implement your code of conduct by ensuring that you and other senior staff set a good example, and by making staff aware that breaches of the code will be followed up.
  9. Deal with breaches promptly. Some behaviour may also be a breach of employment law — for example, an employee harassing a colleague or making discriminatory jokes. These may force you to take serious action, but for less serious offences a quiet word is likely to be sufficient. Refer to the Acas code of practice on discipline and grievance procedures for guidance.

Cardinal Rules


  • follow the code yourself to set a good example
  • consult with employees
  • follow up breaches


  • impose inflexible rules that discriminate against certain employees
  • make changes to contracts without agreement
  • try to drastically change your business’ culture

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