What does an ethical workplace mean to you? #ethicswork.

IMPACT communications executive Helena Clarke
IMPACT communications executive Helena Clarke

by Helena Clarke

IMPACT is working on a campaign for the month of March which is part of President Michael D Higgins’ Ethics Initiative, and which is led by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).

Unions were approached by the president’s office in February, so we put our heads down and together came up with ‘The Ethical Workplace’ project.

Through this project President Higgins has yet again taught us to look at the world through a different lens. We examine how the workplace can be an ethical environment and through that process imagine a better workplace.

Negotiation and dialogue have been high on the response list so far. We live in a time where the balance of power has swung firmly in favour of the employer due to high unemployment, and an often desperate workforce.

The ethical workplace project seeks to give some power back to the worker, by asking and listening to the needs of the workforce.

Come join us

So how can you get involved? There’s lots of options.

We start by answering the question: What does an ethical workplace mean to you? The first and probably easiest way to answer this question is to visit the campaign’s website and leave a comment. Even better you could create a workplace project where co-workers create a short film, or photo montage.

There are campaign postcards and posters available too. To request some for your workplace please contact me here.

You can also leave a comment, and post a picture or video on Twitter using #ethicswork. Obviously it’s very important to use the hashtag here (I don’t want your insights to be lost in the twittersphere!).

This project needs your input, your insights, and your voice. This is a unique invitation from the Irish president to provide a platform for the voice of workers.

Please adopt President Higgins’ initiative into your organisation for the month of March. This is a national conversation, creating a vibrant discussion that can help us all develop a better workplace for everyone.

There isn’t much time left – this project ends at the end of March – but you can still have your voice heard.


It has been really interesting seeing people’s reactions to being asked the question ‘What does an ethical workplace mean to you?’ Participants are often genuinely surprised by the question, and force themselves to look at the workplace in a way they may not have before.

Through this project President Higgins has led the way and is asking an important question that may otherwise be overlooked.

I’ve started to ask IMPACT staff to answer the question ‘What does an ethical workplace mean to you?’ Here’s a selection of the responses so far:

Rekhila Santhakumar, membership IT department

I should enjoy the work, the working environment and co-workers.  If I am not comfortable with the person I am working with then I cannot concentrate on my work, so that’s really important. The working environment is the most important thing.

Dessie Robinson, assistant general secretary

An organisation that looks after its workers, understands how best they can be involved in the running of the organisation, taking their contributions on board no matter what role you play in that organisation. It ensures their wellbeing, and that it runs alongside the goals of the organisation. Whether a trade union, manufacturer or whatever it may be, it needs to ensure that everyone is brought forward with the organisation, and it’s not just hierarchical.

Patricia O’ Mahony, communications unit

In an ideal world – emphasis on ideal because its not always possible – it’s a place where people are happy to come to, where they look forward to being there and at the end of the day they feel that they’ve done their best. It’s a place where their employer has gotten the best from them because they are happy to be there. It’s a place where they feel safe, and are allowed to flourish.

Ger O’ Brien, assistant general secretary

It’s a safe environment, which adopts positive policy in relation to dignity and respect in the workplace. It allows for everyone to express themselves in their own individual way. You should be able to expand and develop. You should have the opportunity to be heard and listened to. The ethos of the organisation should be that equality is intrinsic for one and all, irrespective of background, religion, or education. It’s a place where everyone feels a part of the organisation and an element of ownership over the work.

 Niall Shanahan, communications officer

To me, an ethical workplace is a safe and respectful working environment. A place where the only things that are exploited are your talents. It’s a place where you, your skills and your efforts are explicitly valued. I think the ethical workplace is defined also by its capacity to foster a sense of kinship among colleagues, and the workplace should be constantly striving to achieve this.