MR DAVID Ang, 65, the executive director of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, talks about what human resource departments can do about employees' behaviour outside the workplace.

How do companies avoid sex scandals?

Companies do have certain policies governing an employee's behaviour and responsibilities, including safeguarding the interests and reputation of the different stakeholders.

But these normally do not go into specifics, as far as an employee's personal life is concerned. We need to respect employees' personal life and their welfare, just as they are expected to take care of their employer's.

There needs to be a distinction between personal and professional life. You don't want employees to feel like it is a case of Big Brother watching.


If a company wants to prevent a scandal, can it control its employees' behaviour?

There are a few different levels of control. You can tell employees that they are not allowed to go to a KTV lounge or to gamble in the casino, and give them reasons why you have that restriction.

If an employee should go to these places, then you can punish him. But you cannot say that employees cannot have sex.

There has to be collective responsibility. HR cannot be the authority alone. If there is action to be taken, there has to be natural justice; it has to come from the immediate leader, the manager, the supervisor - or even the boss or the board of directors when senior people are involved.

Even then, it is complicated. These people are not going to act unless they have firm evidence that someone's personal life is compromising the interests of the organisation.


What about trying to prevent it during recruitment? Can firms do anything to emphasise values?

It is difficult to do that at an interview. That's why a probationary period is useful for employers to see if the worker is a good fit. For important positions, other verifications and tests could be administered. But even then, people and value systems change over time.


Are standards of conduct different between the private and public sector?

Within the public sector, there is always a higher expectation because public trust and interest are involved. In a small business, moral values are still important, but they can be expressed differently. If you are the big boss and you preach values and integrity but you don't follow them, nobody is going to respect you.

But you can do it and nobody is going to punish you unless you break the law.