The unique “dual client” nature of employee assistance work can complicate ethical decision-making as the EAP industry and personnel always have simultaneous client responsibilities to both the work organisation and individual employees or family members. EAPA-SA has developed South African-based resources to assist EAP professionals and others in understanding and addressing potential EAP ethical issues, one of which is the EAPA-SA Code of Professional Ethics. The code applies to all EA professionals and their activities and relationships with employees, employers, unions, professional colleagues, community, and society. 1
There are numerous principles that make up the foundation of the EAPA-SA Code of Professional Ethics 2 which guides the conduct of EAPA-SA members, who must comply with these at all times in the execution of their professional duties. The principles are:
The principle of confidentiality refers to the ethical duty on the part of EAPA-SA members to safeguard information entrusted to them by clients with whom they have a professional relationship. This includes the obligation to protect information from unauthorized access, disclosure, modification, loss or theft.
Professional responsibility represents an area of practice in the employee assistance profession whereby members are expected, as professionals, to be accountable for the consequences of their actions and decisions.
Professional competence refers to the ability of EAPA-SA members to act and perform their duties diligently in accordance with the required level of technical skills, knowledge and professional standards to maintain the abilities, skills and knowledge necessary to provide competent professional services.
Professional development embodies activities that develop and maintain the capabilities of professional members in performing competently in their professional environment to ensure that clients receive competent professional services based on current developments in practice, technology and legislation.
The principle of record-keeping relates to a systematic procedure by which the EAP-related records are created, maintained and disposed to safeguard the confidentiality and integrity of information kept as EAP records and ensure the quality of services and the continuity of care for clients.
This relates to efforts to ensure fair, responsible and transparent professional services to clients where EAPA-SA members are to put the interest of the client first in all professional activities.
The principle of staffing relates to practices stemming from the EAP-SA standards in which EAP members are to follow all the legal frameworks for staffing with the intent to promote quality and equality, as well as practice the elimination of unfair discrimination in the recruitment and employment of personnel within the EAP profession or enterprises.
This principle refers to the standards of conduct designed to guide practices associated with EAP business, with the intent to promote ethical management of EAP enterprises and to protect and promote the integrity of the EAP profession.
This principle is concerned with the proper conduct to be exhibited by EAPA-SA members in their professional interactions as EAPA-SA members and/or with other members with the intent to foster the spirit of professional cooperation amongst members and other professionals for the benefit of clients.
EAPA-SA’s objectivity principle relates to the obligation imposed on all members not to compromise their professional judgment due to bias or a negative influence by others with a view to maintaining the stakeholders’ confidence in EAPA-SA members and all the associated services offered by members.
For the purposes of EAPA-SA’s Code of Ethics, timely intervention relates to the provision of prompt professional services to customers with the intent to minimise disruptions in customers’ personal lives and/or business if they need contracted EAP services from members of EAPA-SA.
EAPA Ethical Decision-Making Model
To assist EAP member-professionals in addressing potential ethical dilemmas, the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) has developed a four-step ethical decision-making model, as follows:
- Consider the potential ethical issues in the situation
- What are the competing values or interests in this situation?
- What are my personal values on this issue and which ones are in conflict?
- What ethical guidelines (e.g. law, corporate policies, practice standards, codes of ethics) apply to this issue?
- Consider who has a legitimate interest in this situation (i.e. what individuals or groups may be affected by the decision?)
- Individual client?
- Work organization?
- Others directly or indirectly involved?
- Consider all the possible choices of action
- Which choice benefits the client?
- Which choice benefits the work organisation?
- Which choice benefits others directly or indirectly involved?
- Which choice benefits society?
- Which choice benefits me?
- Make a decision