The standards to be followed by different workers are defined in their codes of professional ethics. It is understood that they regulate the activity of all people, both employed and self-employed. It would seem that it cannot be complicated. There is a specific category and specific rules.
However, everything is not as simple as it might seem at first glance. Mainly, that is because many points may contradict each other or do not bear a special sense load that would allocate this particular category of working people. But first things first.
It is believed that such rules should formulate strict standards of conduct for different specialties. However, in fact, they are designed to solve a variety of tasks. Some are simply used to demonstrate that a certain group features a certain profession. Some proclaim a set of ideals (more often unattainable), to which certain workers should strive and with which they should be guided in their practice. Other codes or their sections are disciplinary, determining the minimum regulations that workers must observe.
If this minimum is not observed, a person is punished. The most serious punishment is a dismissal. There are rules that formulate so-called etiquette. There are uniform codes, including a set of ideals and a list of rules, and norms of conduct.
If rules are intended to serve as the basis for allowing a certain specialty to claim autonomy from unprofessional public control (for example, doctors and lawyers) to which other groups are exposed, they should have the following qualities.
- The code should be regulative and purposeful.
Inclusion of ideals in it is not forbidden. But it should accurately determine which of its provisions are ideals and which are disciplinary, punitive in their nature. If the code does not actually regulate a behavior, it does not actually have a public declaration.
In this case, there is no reason to single out this set of working people in a separate category. Society recognizes autonomy of a profession provided that workers should behave appropriately. To a certain extent that differs from other lines of conduct of other workers, and, therefore, professional norms should be known to the public and evaluated higher than other norms.
- The code is designed to protect the interests of society and those individuals who use the services of specific working groups.
If society does not obtain benefits from providing a profession with autonomy, it should deprive it of this privilege. The code should not be a self-service tool for a specialty. Codes can be used to serve the interests of a specialty, considering the interests society.
Some rules (for example, the ones regarding the setting of fees or restrictions on advertising) protect a specialty but don’t cover the interests of society. The provisions of codes that prevent competition within a profession are usually not in the public interest, they are aimed at emphasizing the negative characteristics of a profession.
- Codes must be fair and precisely worded.
The code, which simply states that certain workers should not lie, steal or deceive, does not require anything beyond what is required of all other people. When the code is written fairly, it reflects the aspects of a specialty that characterize specific temptations that people may experience.
Autonomy is provided to a profession because the workers know possible specific mistakes, shortcomings and “dark sides”, unethical although not entirely illegal methods. If such methods are not precisely defined in the code, a profession does not actually control its activities.
- The code must be controlled.
If rules do not contain any information about penalties that must follow certain unacceptable actions, it is nothing more than a declaration of ideals. Ideals themselves are also needed, and no one is forbidden to learn them and talk about them, but from the standpoint of public good and certain guarantees, they have no power.
If with all its activity a profession cannot prove that it controls its members, society has no reason to believe that it does this. In such cases, there is no reason for granting a profession special privileges. Accordingly, society must pass laws concerning the activities of workers and establish control over these activities, just as it controls representatives of other kinds of employment.
Rights and Moral Influence
Although the code of a certain profession can be implemented, it is not a case for a court yet. It means that all this is relatively arbitrary and cannot have a direct effect on a person from a legislative point of view.
Violation of the professional code entails only limited disciplinary measures. Further perceptions and conclusions depend solely on an individual. He or she can think about his or her misdemeanor or forget about it quickly, or harbor enmity, whatever. The most severe punishment, as we have mentioned above, can be an exclusion from a profession, along with naming and shaming. The most common practice is an expression of censure. It should be noted that such measures do not work with all people, but this is rather an exception.
People who are not able or do not want to bear punishment for misconduct that led to undesirable consequences should be subjected to more intensive conversations with possible variants of specific penalties before being expelled or dismissed. Some do not consider themselves to be guilty, and it is almost impossible to prove their guilt to them.
Professional codes usually ignore such problems that at least some workers face. They often specify duties in relation to a client or a patient, to an entrepreneur (if a member of a profession works for hire), to the population and to a specialty itself. Each paragraph is signed and described separately in order to avoid confusion and misinformation.
What does a member of a profession have to do when these duties conflict with each other? For example, how should a doctor working in a company act when he or she is told not to disclose information on the growth of indicators of work-related illnesses among factory workers? Are his or her duties towards society and in relation to patients (workers) more important than the responsibilities towards an entrepreneur?
In addition, professional codes do not contain any indication of what measures should be taken when a profession itself is inappropriate to bring benefits to society.