Code of Ethics of Social Work

The code of ethics specifies the standards of ethics, conduct, and performance expected of registered social workers. It is a duty of a social worker to always protect the health and well-being of people who avail of the services. In everything that a social worker does, he/she has to demonstrate respect for the inherent dignity and worth of persons, pursuit of social justice, integrity of professional practice, confidentiality in professional practice, and competence in professional practice. Critical to any code of ethics is explicit provision of ethical principles and ethical standards and may go into specific enforceable guidelines for professional conduct in details that would provide objective professional judgment and make it easy to identify actual violations of ethical standards when they occur. 

Ethical Principles

A sample of ethical principles and ethical standards here are adapted from the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. They are broad ethical principles based on social work’s core values of service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. These principles and standards set forth ideals to which all social workers should aspire.

Value: Service

Ethical Principle: Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.

Social workers elevate service to others above self-interest. Social workers draw on their knowledge, values, and skills to help people in need and to address social problems. Social workers are encouraged to volunteer some portion of their professional skills without expecting significant financial return (pro bono service). 

Value: Social Justice

Ethical Principle: Social workers challenge social injustice.

Social workers pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people. Social workers’ social change efforts are focused primarily on issues of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and other forms of social injustice. These activities seek to promote sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and cultural and ethnic diversity. Social workers strive to ensure access to needed information, services, and resources; equality of opportunity; and meaningful participation in decision making for all people.

Value: Dignity and Worth of the Person

Ethical Principle: Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.

Social workers treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethnic diversity. Social workers promote clients’ socially responsible self-determination. Social workers seek to enhance clients’ capacity and opportunity to change and to address their own needs. Social workers are cognizant of their dual responsibility to clients and to the broader society. They seek to resolve conflicts between clients’ interests and the broader society’s interests in a socially responsible manner consistent with the values, ethical principles, and ethical standards of the profession. 

Value: Importance of Human Relationships

Ethical Principle: Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships.

Social workers understand that relationships between and among people are an important vehicle for change. Social workers engage people as partners in the helping process. Social workers seek to strengthen relationships among people in a purposeful effort to promote, restore, maintain, and enhance the well-being of individuals, families, social groups, organizations, and communities.

Value: Integrity

Ethical Principle: Social workers behave in a trustworthy manner.

Social workers are continually aware of the profession’s mission, values, ethical principles, and ethical standards and practice in a manner consistent with them. Social workers act honestly and responsibly and promote ethical practices on the part of the organizations with which they are affiliated.

Value: Competence

Ethical Principle: Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise.

Social workers continually strive to increase their professional knowledge and skills and apply them in practice. Social workers should aspire to contribute to the knowledge base of the profession.

Ethical Standards

The following ethical standards are relevant to the professional activities of all social workers. These standards are concerned with the social workers’ ethical responsibilities: (1) to clients; (2) to colleagues; (3) in practice settings; (4) as professionals; (5) to the social work profession; and (6) to the broader society.

Guidelines for Professional Conduct

The following guidelines for professional conduct reflect the spirit of a code of ethics. It consists the ethical specifics in the professional conduct of social workers culled from the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Social Workers devised by the Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) at CORU (2011) and the Ethics in Social Work Statement of Principles by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) (2004). 

  • Social workers are expected to uphold human rights in their practice.
  • Social workers should respect the rights and dignity of people.
  • Social workers should respect relationships of people who use their services.
  • Social workers should promote social justice.
  • Social workers should comply with the laws and regulations governing their practice.
  • Social workers should carry out their duties professionally and ethically.
  • Social workers should demonstrate ethical awareness.
  • Social workers should demonstrate professional accountability.
  • Social workers should act in the best interest of people who use their services.
  • Social workers should communicate with people who use their services, careers, and professionals.
  • Social workers should seek informed consent of people who use their services.
  • Social workers should keep accurate records.
  • Social workers should deal appropriately with health and safety risks.
  • Social workers should willingly collaborate, delegate, and manage appropriately.
  • Social workers should undertake research ethically.
  • Social workers should maintain high standards of personal conduct.
  • Social workers should act with integrity. This means that they should not abuse the relationship of the trust with people using their services; they should recognize the boundaries between personal and professional life, and they should not abuse their position for personal benefit or gain.
  • Social workers should provide accurate information about their conduct and competence.
  • Social workers should treat information about people who use their services as confidential except in situations that call for greater ethical requirement such as preservation of life.
  • Social workers should act within the limits of their professional knowledge, skills, and experience.
  • Social workers should keep their professional knowledge and skills up to date so that they are able to provide appropriate services.