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Survey: Ethics important but confusing for S'pore employees

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Most Singapore employees want to work for companies with good ethics, but they are concerned that compliance policies are too vague and inconsistent, a survey has found.

It said this concern has partly resulted in a lack of understanding of ethics among some millennial employees.

While 92 per cent of Singapore respondents said they want to work for a company with a strong compliance culture, 40 per cent believed their company's code of conduct had little impact on how people behaved, and 42 per cent thought their senior management would ignore unethical behaviour to achieve revenue targets.

This mismatch is more apparent among millennials - those aged 25 to 34 - noted the survey, which polled 1,698 employees of all age groups in 14 Asia-Pacific countries or areas, including 105 here, between November and February.

"In Asia Pacific, 83 per cent of millennials - 69 per cent of millennials in Singapore - said they were unwilling to work for, or would leave an organisation involved in bribery or corruption," said Ms Belinda Tan, EY's partner for fraud investigation and dispute services.

The biennial survey by financial consultancy firm EY found that millennial respondents (45 per cent) in Singapore are more likely than any other age group (21 per cent) to be prepared to offer cash payments to win or retain business - an act of bribery. This is higher than the 38 per cent average for millennials across the region.

The figures suggest that despite years of investment into compliance policies, ethical standards in the corporate sector may have not improved accordingly.

"That is basically due to a lack of clarity of policies, and inconsistency of their implementation.

"This causes confusion and frustration among employees," said Mr Reuben Khoo, EY's Asean leader for fraud investigation and dispute services.

Mixed messages sent out by the management, including promoting unethical employees, have even created distrust, he said.

About 80 per cent of respondents in Singapore said their companies had a whistle-blowing hotline, but 22 per cent said they would rather report misconduct to law enforcement hotlines, or on social media.

There is now a "wake-up call" for employers to revisit their compliance programmes, invest more in education and lead by example, Ms Tan said.

Another area that requires attention is cyber security, with around half of regional and Singapore respondents saying their companies had no policies against using personal devices for work-related activities.