Workers in the UK are amongst the most honest in Europe, a new survey has found, generally not falling prey to the type of ethical breaches common in other countries, such as France, Germany and Spain.
The survey by recruitment agency, Kelly Services, of more than 19,000 workers in 12 countries across Europe also found that just over half of those surveyed in the UK are satisfied with their employer's ethical standards.
"This survey shows that when it comes to ethical behaviour in the workplace, the majority of workers and employers in the UK are getting it right," said Kelly Services' Steve Girdler.
One finding is that UK workers rate their employers favourably when it comes to ethical standards, with more than half (53 per cent) satisfied with their organisation's ethical standards and practices. This was significantly higher than most other countries in the Europe-wide survey.
"Some organisations have a powerful culture which establishes a strong set of ethical principles, but many companies don't give the proper emphasis to setting ground rules which will guide the organisation," Girdler commented.
But just one in three of Britons believed that their employers have employees' best interests at heart. This contrasts with the average figure across Europe of almost half (48 per cent) who did not believe companies took employees interests seriously.
On an employee level the survey found that only one in seven (14 per cent) of workers surveyed in the UK approve of taking office supplies home for personal use - along with Russia, the lowest of all countries surveyed.
It also found that a fifth approve of using office software at home – the second lowest in the survey.
One in three approve of using the Internet for personal use during work time – the third lowest. And just three per cent say it's OK to use unlicensed software at work – the lowest in the Europe-wide study.
Girdler said the findings reveal the real difficulty that many workers have in meeting high standards of ethical behaviour.
"At one end of the scale, using the Internet for personal use, within reasonable limits, may not be a serious issue. It becomes more problematic when people are stealing items belonging to their organisation or using unlicensed software, which is an offence and attracts heavy penalties."
Girdler cautions: "In recent years, we have seen many instances of corporate misconduct at the highest level which reflects a breakdown in workplace ethics. It is important that employers communicate their values for an organisation which will make it clear at all levels, what is acceptable, and what is not."