Is it okay to take the office stationery home? Thirty per cent of Kiwi workers think so.

How about checking your Facebook and other personal internet use?

Forty-five per cent of respondents to Ethics at Work 2018 Survey of Employees were okay with that - although making personal calls was considered more acceptable, with the approval of 61 per cent.

These are some of the more specific findings of the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) survey of employees. Introduced in the United Kingdom in 2005, it has been conducted in New Zealand for the first time in association with Victoria University.


The survey ultimately aims to highlight more serious issues of workplace ethics and culture.

It found, for example, that only 29 per cent of New Zealand employees surveyed said their organisation had a comprehensive ethics programme, while 10 per cent say their organisation had none at all.

The survey asked employees how they experienced ethical dilemmas in their day-to-day working lives.

It looked at whether they have witnessed misconduct, whether they have reported it, and what stops them doing so.

Twenty-six per cent of employees said they had witnessed workplace misconduct in the past year.

The most common types were: seeing people treated inappropriately (46 per cent), bullying and harassment (38 per cent) and safety violations (37 per cent).

Thirty four per cent of those who had witnessed unethical behaviour did not speak up about it.

IBE Director Phillipa Foster Back said the value of an independent nationwide study was that it avoided the pitfalls of internal corporate surveys where workers may feel compromised.


It was conducted in Australia for the first this year too, she said.

Of more than 2,000 employees surveyed across the three countries, 752 were in New Zealand.

Since the survey began in the UK in 2005 there had "been a sea change" in the attitude of companies to those who chose to speak out.

It was an area where social media appeared to be having a positive effect, she said.

Because there was no longer anywhere for anybody to hide.

"So I think companies have recognised the need to have proper systems which are written from the point of view of the reporter - the person who has seen something that's not right - and to try to encourage them to speak up."

The most important message companies could take from the survey was around the need to provide the right level of training and support for employees.

It was usually the case that the first person employees could, and should, talk to about unethical conduct was their manager.

"But frequently managers are not best equipped to handle those conversations," she said.

There were a couple of areas where New Zealand stood out from the results in Australia and the UK.

When asked how often honesty is practised at work 86 per cent of Kiwis said always or frequently, compared to 84 per cent of Australians, and just 81 per cent of UK workers.

That was even lower in Europe at 78 per cent and, specifically, in Germany where it was just 69 per cent, Foster Back said.

Meanwhile New Zealand workers were less likely than their Australian and British counterparts to condone the fiddling of travel expenses or entertainment budgets.

In both cases just 7 per cent of Kiwis saw these things as okay, compared to 14 and 13 per cent (respectively) of workers in the UK.

Read the full report here