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Board code of conduct

The code of conduct for our board members provides guidance on the responsibilities and standards of conduct expected of all board members.

Board code of conduct

Last updated: August 2022

1. Why do we need this policy?

1.1. We (Social Work England) were established under the Children and Social Work Act (2017) (referred to as the Act) as a body corporate. The Act states [1] that our over-arching objective is the protection of the public. The pursuit of our over-arching objective involves the following objectives:

  • to protect, promote and maintain the health, safety and well-being of the public;
  • to promote and maintain public confidence in social workers in England; and
  • to promote and maintain proper professional standards for social workers in England.

1.2. We are the single-profession regulator for social workers in England. We are a separate legal entity in the form of a non-departmental public body (NDPB). We operate at arm’s length from government and comply with all of the requirements for an NDPB and the principles of good governance for public bodies.

1.3. The Code of Conduct for our Board members provides guidance on the responsibilities and standards of conduct expected of all Board members, including those that sit on the Board’s sub-committees – Audit Risk and Assurance Committee, Policy Committee and Remuneration Committee. Board members are expected to subscribe to this Code of Conduct and comply with it while carrying out their duties.

[note 1] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2017/16/part/2/enacted

2. Who needs to follow this policy and why?

All board members, including those that sit on the board’s sub-committees.

3. What’s our policy and how will we implement it?

Conducting Board meetings

Board meetings must be well-conducted, and the decisions taken should be well-informed. Therefore, Board members should:

  • take account of the views of others, but should reach their own conclusions on the issues before them and act in accordance with those conclusions;
  • be as open as possible about their actions and decisions, being prepared to give reasons for their actions and willing for their decisions and actions to be scrutinised and challenged in a constructive way;
  • allow everyone to take part, respecting the contribution of other members and not interrupting when someone is speaking, nor be dismissive of views expressed by others; and
  • respect the impartiality and integrity of other Board members, never being derogatory in their speech or manner. Members should not use language which could be construed as discriminatory or offensive to others
  • act in alignment with our values, behaviours and culture

Individual board members must follow the Seven Principles of Public Life set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The Standards impose several duties on Board Members.

Duty to act in the public interest

Board members must act in good faith and in our best interests. They should not use their position to promote their personal interests or those of any connected person, firm or organisation.

Board members should not make political statements or engage in political activity related to our role or activity.

Board members should not provide political commentary during purdah.

Duty to avoid conflicts of interest and to register interests

Board members should avoid being influenced by others or placing themselves under obligation to any individual or organisation which might affect, or be perceived to affect, their ability to act impartially and objectively.

Board members must ensure that conflicts do not arise, or appear to arise, between their public duties and their private interests, whether these are financial or otherwise. It is the personal responsibility of all Board members to declare any personal or business interests which may or may reasonably appear to conflict with their responsibilities.

Board Members are expected to declare an interest at the start of a meeting or at the very latest the start of the agenda item to which the interest arises.

Board members may be asked by the Chair to remove themselves from the discussion or determination of matters in which they have, or may be perceived to have, a financial interest. In matters in which they have a non-financial interest, Board members should not participate in the discussion or decision on a matter where the interest might suggest that the Board was biased.

Board members' interests will be published on our website.

Board members will declare any other employment.

Where there is potential for interests to be material or relevant to us such interests should be declared and recorded in the register held and maintained by the (Chair/Executive Team). Examples of interests which should be declared, though not exhaustive, are:

  • directorships, including non-executive directorships, of private companies or PLCs
  • a paid or unpaid position on an advisory or other decision-making group that could influence how we spend taxpayers money
  • ownership of private companies, businesses or consultancies, or shareholdings in the same; likely or possibly seeking to do business with us
  • a position of authority in another statutory, professional, commercial, charity, voluntary or other body, which could be seen to influence our work within operations
  • any other interests or connection with public, private or other organisations that may have reason to work with us
  • any close family member, or business associate who has any interests that may influence or be seen to influence us
Duty to preserve confidentiality

Board members may receive information which is not in the public domain. It is the responsibility of each individual member to ensure that this information remains confidential to the meeting, unless prior authorisation has been given by the Chair for this to be discussed elsewhere. This duty of confidentiality continues to apply after members have left the Board.

Board members must never use confidential information for their personal advantage or the advantage or disadvantage of anyone known to them or to disadvantage or discredit the Board.

Duty to safeguard public funds

Board members have a duty to ensure the safeguarding of public funds. This includes providing receipts from fees and other sources.

Board members must take appropriate measures to ensure that we conduct our operations as economically, efficiently and effectively as possible, with full regard to the relevant statutory provisions and to relevant guidance.

Board members should not misuse official resources for personal gain or for political purposes.

Duty not to accept benefits from third parties

Board members must not accept any gifts or hospitality which might appear to compromise their personal judgement or integrity or place them under an improper obligation. Board members should follow our Gifts and Hospitality Policy.

No inducement of any amount or value may be accepted under any circumstance. Any overt or covert offer of any inducement (of whatever value) for some action pertaining to a contract with an external third-party individual or organisation, or concerning a future decision of the Board must be referred immediately to the Chair and/or the Chief Executive.

Duty to promote equality, diversity and human rights

The Equality Act 2010 created a ‘public sector equality duty’ covering all forms of discrimination, and which requires public bodies to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relation between different people when carrying out their activities.

Therefore, Board members have a duty to promote equality, diversity and human rights and not discriminate unlawfully against any person, treating all people with respect, regardless of their race, age, religion or belief, gender, marital status, pregnancy or maternity status, gender reassignment, sexual orientation or disability.

Raising concerns

If a Board member wishes to express a concern about the behaviour of another Board member, they should in the first instance raise the issue with the Chair. If the concern involves the Chair, the Board member should raise the matter with the Chief Executive.

Where a Board member has reason to believe that a very serious wrong-doing has taken or is taking place, (e.g. a criminal offence or a staff member is failing to comply with a legal obligation) they should raise this immediately with the Chair and/or the Chief Executive.

Failure to comply with code of conduct

If any Board member fails to perform the duties required of them or display the standards of conduct expected of them, they may be judged as failing to carry out the duties of their office. This could lead to them being removed from the Board.

Failure at any time by a Board member to disclose information about their personal or professional history or conduct, which could cause embarrassment or bring us into disrepute, would constitute a serious breach of this Code.

If this policy isn’t followed, the most appropriate course of action will be agreed between the policy owner and the Head of People and Development, dependent on the circumstances.

4. Roles and responsibilities

4.1 Chair of the Board

The Chair is responsible for overseeing the Board’s Code of Conduct by specifically:

  • encouraging and promoting high standards of propriety;
  • ensuring that, in reaching decisions, the Board takes proper account of guidance provided by Ministers and the sponsor department (Department for Education) and the Board’s sub-committees;
  • maintaining a register of declared interests;
  • representing the views of the Board to the general public; and
  • ensuring that all decisions are only made where the Board is quorate.

The Chair will ensure that the Board meets at regular intervals throughout the year and that the minutes of meetings accurately record the decisions taken and matters discussed. The Chair should ensure that all Board members feel able to contribute to the Board’s discussions. Where a member of the Board is unable to attend, the Chair is responsible for approving the suggested proxy.

4.2 Board members

The responsibilities of Board members in relation to the code of conduct include ensuring that:

  • high standards of corporate governance are observed by the Board at all times;
  • we operate within the limits of our statutory authority and any delegated authority agreed with Ministers and the Department for Education (sponsor Department), and in accordance with any other conditions relating to the use of public funds; and
  • we comply with any duties imposed on public bodies by statute, including obligations under health and safety legislation, the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010, the Data Protection Act 2018, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (2018).

Board members have a collective duty to ensure that their decision-making processes are transparent. When a decision is made in private, there must still be transparency around the process, which resulted in a decision being made. Each Board member has a personal responsibility to ensure that they have sufficient understanding and information to participate in the decisions that are made by the Board.

Board members’ engagement with the public should be based on the core principles of integrity, competence and confidentiality. Any public statements should accurately reflect our policies and practices and not compromise or threaten our reputation as the independent social work regulator.

5. Related policies, procedures and information sources

Board declarations of interest and conflict resolution policy.

6. Data protection, equality and diversity

A data protection impact assessment (DPIA) and equality impact assessment (EIA) have been completed for this policy.

7. Queries?

If you have a query about this policy, please contact Alison Edbury, Executive Office Lead.

8. Definitions

8.1 Non-departmental public body (NDPB)

According to www.gov.uk, a NDPB is a “body which has a role in the processes of national government but is not a government department or part of one, and which accordingly operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm’s length from ministers." [2]

[note 2] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-bodies-reform#ndpbs-executive-agencies-and-non-ministerial-departments

8.2 Code of conduct

A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the norms, rules, and responsibilities of, and or proper practices for, an individual.

9. Version

Last reviewed: January 2022

Next review: January 2023

Policy owner: Tracy Watterson, Executive Director – People and Business Support

Policy reference: POL_COC_01

Version: 1.5

If you require a PDF version of this policy, please contact us.

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