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Codes of ethics in the light of fairness and harm



Nine codes of ethics from companies in the Swedish financial sector were subjected to a content analysis to determine how they address and treat employees. The codes say a great deal about employee conduct and misconduct but next to nothing about employee rights, their rightful expectations or their value to the firm. The normative analysis – echoing some of the value-based HRM literature – draws on the foundational values of respect, equality, reciprocity and care. The analysis shows that most of the codes are in conflict with these values. Such a treatment is then in conflict with fairness and risks harming the employees. Some of the features that make these codes ethically problematic are typical of how corporate codes have been described in previous code studies. Consequently, the normative analysis reaches beyond the scope of this material and in the end, what is at stake, is a very typical code design.