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5.1 - Ethical Issues

Exam Board:



2016 - Unit 1 

What is ethics?

Ethics refers to what is right and wrong. The following issues are often linked to or backed up by legislation.

Whistle Blowing

Definition: When a member of staff reveals that the organisation they work for are engaging in unlawful practices. This could include breaking privacy laws, threatening staff and environmental damage.

In some countries, like the UK, whistleblowers are protected by law. Whistleblowers are protected from being fired or not being considered for promotion as a result of their actions.

A famous whistleblower is Edward Snowden, who revealed in 2013 that many governments, including the USA and the UK, were spying on their civilians with widespread undocumented surveillance. 

Should Martin reveal that his company is dumping old computers into a lake or just stay quiet?

Graham feels that, because of his disability, he is being ignored for a promotion that he deserves.


Definition: When an employee is treated unfairly because of a personal or physical characteristic over which they have no control.

The Equality Act (2010) ensures equal treatment for all people irrespective of:

  • race

  • sexuality

  • gender

  • disability

  • marital status (and many more)


Examples of discrimination include offensive talk, harassment, unequal pay and being ignored for promotion.

Use of Information

Definition: Laws such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and specifically the Data Protection Act (2018) ensure that organisations must responsibly process personal data.


Organisations have a legal obligation to keep their employee and customer personal data secure and out of reach from unauthorised viewers. Considerations should be made about how the information is ethically collected, stored and processed.

DataDyne backs up customer information on cloud storage - what if this data is compromised?

As part of quality assurance, Selside Bank double check performance reviews before submission.

Codes of Practice

Definition: A set of rules which explains how people working in certain professions are required to behave. Organisations may have a code of practice for:

  • Confidentiality (rules on what data can and cannot be shared with others),

  • Quality assurance (ensuring high quality is maintained for all products/services),

  • Behaviour (setting out how employees are expected to behave at work and in communication with each other and customers),

  • Equality and discrimination (being understanding and providing fair access to all employees).

Employees must agree to the codes of practice so they are clear on their expectations of what is and isn't acceptable at work.


The organisation can then discipline employees that broke the codes of practice they formerly agreed to.

Online Safety

Definition: Often companies will provide an induction (training) to new employees about the organisation’s code of practice for using the internet whilst at work.


If an individual does not behave safely online or breaks the organisation's codes of practice (by gambling at work for example) then they may be punished (e.g. fined or fired).

Employees can ensure that they are safe online by using secure passwords that are regularly updated and preventing web browsers from remembering login details.

Miriam changes her password each month to minimise the chance of hackers accessing her account.

The CEO of Honey Media apologies in public after biased information led to a lawsuit and loss of reputation.


Definition: This is technically correct, but slanted, information that presents a one-sided view. For example, end-of year financial data that focuses on profits and ignores significant losses.

Poor quality information may lead to an organisation being misinformed and not sufficiently responding to their customers' needs - for example if a survey was only completed by a small number of people it could generate biased results.

As a result of poor quality information, organisations may suffer from damage to their reputation due to negative feedback and reviews from customers, possibly posted online. A lack of trust can occur if customers feel neglected because of decisions made using biased information of a poor quality, therefore reputational damage may lead to loss of customers.

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Questo's Questions

5.1 - Ethical Issues:

1. Describe what whistleblowing is and give 3 examples. [4]

2. Describe what discrimination is and give 4 examples. [5]

3. Which law relates to the use of information? [1]

4a. Describe 2 things that may be included in an organisation's codes of practice. [4]

4b. Explain why employees must agree to their company's codes of practice [4].

5. Describe 2 things an employee should do to stay safe online. [2]

6a. What is biased information? [2]

6b. Describe 3 possible effects to a company if they use biased information. [6]

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