Ethical Responsibilities of Employers in the Workplace


The 21st-century business environment gives emphasis to the relationship between employers and employees. Increased competition and desire by human resources departments have compelled companies to seek better ways of employee management to reduce employee turnover while increasing output and meeting company objectives. It is important to note that while employers accord their employees a source of livelihood, the relationship between the two parties is more or less interdependent. None can do without the other, hence the need for a clear definition of roles and responsibilities to ensure smooth running o organizations.

Despite the importance of both sides’ responsibilities to each other, this paper will focus on the responsibilities of employers to employees and will seek to detail what is needed of employers in order to maintain a stable organization. Mathis says that the relationship between the two sides is based on mutual dependency and accompanied by responsibilities especially with stakeholders on board (2011, p. 210). Mathis adds that though there are a number of categories of responsibilities, most of the time, moral and legal, and ethical responsibilities determine the fate of an organization (2011, p. 211). In this discussion, both moral and ethical obligations will be discussed together as most of the aspects they encompass complement each other.

Employers Ethical and Moral Responsibilities

According to Emerson, every employer has a moral responsibility to ensure the welfare of employees is taken care of (2009, p. 552). Though employees need good pay and good working conditions, there is a need for employers to show and cultivate a genuine and enduring concern for employees’ welfare. Organizations must make an effort to show loyalty to their employees as they do to other stakeholders.

For instance, there is a need for employers to ensure humane handling of actions such as layoffs and business fold-ups. Precisely, Emerson says that the use of euphemisms such as “downsizing and/or rightsizing” must never be applied to hide the moral and human face of business restructuring. In a nutshell, there is a need for employers to attach a human face in every aspect that concerns a business and the employees (2009, p. 555).

Closely related to moral responsibilities, employers are also charged with the responsibility of providing a good environment where ethical values can thrive. Employers must work towards nurturing a corporate philosophy and culture that emphasizes both internal and external ethical values.

Employers have a responsibility to put in place training and development techniques that help in developing and improving employees’ skills. Some scholars contend that only firms with an ethical stance undertake the above-mentioned initiative to secure both the firm’s and employee’s interest.

Perhaps one of the most important responsibilities an employer has to the employees is to ensure the successful prevalence of diversity in the workplace (Cushway, 2011, p. 190). Increased globalization has led to the expansion of firms to previously unreached areas effectively bringing onboard people from different backgrounds. In such situations, there is bound to misunderstandings breed by biases and stereotypes. It is an employer’s responsibility to make sure there are no such biases and that all employees are treated equally.

Some sociologists contend that the workplace is one of the main factors influencing failed or dysfunctional families and personal relationships. It is for this reason therefore that employers need to put in place workplace mechanisms that enable employees to balance personal and work life (Emerson, 2009, p. 558). In the long-run, such a balance is likely to increase the productivity of employees in the workplace.

Also, some scholars consider the existence of mechanisms for whistle blowing an ethics issue. They argue that every employee is entitled to an effective whistleblowing mechanism in order to expose any unethical conduct in an organization. The employer’s responsibility precisely involved the formation of such a mechanism that eliminates the chance of an employee getting identified or losing his/her job after reporting wrongdoing.

Unlike moral responsibilities, legal responsibilities cover a much wider scope and mainly involve the responsibilities an employer has to fulfill in accordance with the law (Mathis, 2011, p. 215). These are requirements that authorities enforce to ensure employers don’t exploit their employees and that all their rights are respected. They include, terms of employment, joining and participation in labor union activities, provision of health and safety benefits, and access to equal employment opportunities, and protection from sexual harassment. In most cases, authorities require employers to draft contracts that give ample space to the employee to maneuver in case there is any dispute.

It is the responsibility of the employer to accord an employee a contract that allows employment at will. In this case, an employee is required to terminate the contract so long as sufficient is given according to the terms of employment. Contracts must never be binding in a way that will tie an employee to a job he/she does not want.

Employers also have a responsibility to adequately compensate their employees, commensurate with their level of education, skills, and experience (Snell & Bohlander, 2012, p. 570). Though the federal and state governments set minimum wage standards, employers must always appraise an individual to ascertain the level of compensation they must give. Besides ensuring a low turnover rate, effective compensation will most likely ensure high productivity in the long-run.

During and sometime after the industrial revolution, the conditions of work for factory workers were dismal which prompted organized workers’ movements pressing for better working conditions. Since then, a number of countries including the United States have adopted the labor union culture. Most employees today both formal and informal belong to trade unions that are aimed at providing collective bargaining rights to their members. Though these unions more often than not antagonize employers, employers have a legal responsibility to allow their employees to join and participate in the lawful activities of the unions.

According to Snell & Bohlander, one of the most important roles that an employer should play is the provision of a healthy and safe working environment (2012, p. 561). In the US there are a number of acts of congress that have come to represent the struggle for better health and safety in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to create favorable working conditions that ensure his/her health and safety.

In most cases, employers offer comprehensive medical coverage to the individual in case of death or permanent disability. An important point to note for employers is the emergence of workplace violence with reliable statistics revealing thousands of assaults and murders in the workplace every year. It is therefore the duty of every employer to ensure every adequate protection has been provided in the workplace.

Cushway says that on the backdrop of increased participation of women in the 21st-century corporate sector, there is enough evidence to show that cases of sexual misconduct have increased (2011, p. 187). Every employer therefore is required to put in place mechanisms that can protect all employees especially women from both physical and verbal sexual abuse.


The importance of the rights of an employee cannot be overstated. Both sections above root for fair and respectful treatment of employees by employers. In so doing, employers have the responsibility to ensure that no member of management abuses his/her powers when dealing with subordinates. In any organization, management forms part of the heart of operations. That is why ensuring that they correctly play their role in the everyday running of the company is important. It is important that employees work in a free environment where any issues of concern can be raised without any fear of negative repercussions.

Furthermore, there is a need for the creation of trust between employees and the employer regarding issues such as pay as well as promotions in the workplace. Any form of suppression, failure to honor promises, and blatant disregard of employee welfare concerns are tantamount to the negligence of moral responsibilities of the employer. Also, it is important for all employers not to act contrary to the legal responsibilities outlined in section two above. Unlike moral responsibilities where one can argue on technicalities, ignorance of legal responsibilities in most cases is a serious offense that can easily result in o jail terms.

Certainly, the above sections did not exhaust the responsibilities of an employer to the employees. However, it is a good starting point for a broader elaboration of what is expected of an employer to an employee. It is only advisable for any employer to take into account the increasingly important role of employees in the contemporary business setting in order so that they can do what is good for the company in the long-term.


Cushway, B. (2011). The Employer’s Handbook 2011-12: An Essential Guide to Employment Law Personnel Policies and Procedures. London: Thomson Learning.

Emerson, R. (2009). Business Law. New York: Springer.

Mathis, R. (2011). Human Resource Management: Essential Perspectives. New York: Cengage Learning.

Snell, S. & Bohlander, G. (2012). Managing Human Resources. New York: Francis & Taylor.

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