Two surveys published yesterday by the Institute of Business Ethics set out the views of employees in Great Britain and continental Europe (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) on ethical standards and behaviour in their workplace.

The majority of British (84%) and continental European (77%) employees say that honesty is practiced “Always/Frequently” in their organisation’s daily practices. In addition, the majority of British and continental European employees perceive their organisation as having an ‘ethical culture’ in place – according to seven indicators measuring the ethical behaviour of line management and ethical standards in organisations (at least 60% of respondents agreed with each of seven positive statements*).

However, of the fifth of British employees (20%) and the quarter (28%) of continental European employees aware of misconduct in their organisation in the last year only half in each case (51%) say they reported it.

“Attitudes of indifference (‘It’s none of my business’) and the belief that no corrective action would be taken, deter employees who are aware of misconduct from raising their concerns,” says Simon Webley, IBE’s Research Director. “Businesses need to work harder at communicating the importance of speaking up, and supporting staff who do.”

Compared to 2008, components of a formal ethics programme seem more prevalent in Britain, with significant increases in the proportions of British workers saying their organisation provides each of four aspects (written standards on ethical business behaviour, up from 66% in 2008 to 73% in 2012; an anonymous mechanism for reporting misconduct, up from 54% to 69%; training on ethical standards, up from 55% to 62%; and an information helpline on ethical issues, up from 49% to 58%).

The case in continental Europe is less positive. Just half (53%) of employees say their organisation has written standards of ethical business behaviour in place, and less than half of employees say their organisation has an anonymous speak up mechanism (31%) or an advice or information helpline (34%) or provides training (39%) on ethical issues.