The following ethical standards are relevant to the professional activities of all social
workers. These standards concern (1) social workers' ethical responsibilities to clients,
(2) social workers' ethical responsibilities to colleagues, (3) social workers' ethical
responsibilities in practice settings, (4) social workers' ethical responsibilities as
professionals, (5) social workers' ethical responsibilities to the social work profession,
and (6) social workers' ethical responsibilities to the broader society.
Some of the standards that follow are enforceable guidelines for professional conduct, and
some are aspirational. The extent to which each standard is enforceable is a matter of
professional judgment to be exercised by those responsible for reviewing alleged violations
of ethical standards.
1. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to Clients
1.01 Commitment to Clients
Social workers' primary responsibility is to promote the well-being of clients. In general,
clients' interests are primary. However, social workers' responsibility to the larger
society or specific legal obligations may on limited occasions supersede the loyalty owed
clients, and clients should be so advised. (Examples include when a social worker is
required by law to report that a client has abused a child or has threatened to harm self or
Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist
clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals. Social workers may limit
clients' right to self-determination when, in the social workers' professional judgment,
clients' actions or potential actions pose a serious, foreseeable, and imminent risk to
themselves or others.
1.03 Informed Consent
(a) Social workers should provide services to clients only in the context of a professional
relationship based, when appropriate, on valid informed consent. Social workers should use
clear and understandable language to inform clients of the purpose of the services, risks
related to the services, limits to services because of the requirements of a third-party
payer, relevant costs, reasonable alternatives, clients' right to refuse or withdraw
consent, and the time frame covered by the consent. Social workers should provide clients
with an opportunity to ask questions.
(b) In instances when clients are not literate or have difficulty understanding the primary
language used in the practice setting, social workers should take steps to ensure clients'
comprehension. This may include providing clients with a detailed verbal explanation or
arranging for a qualified interpreter or translator whenever possible.
(c) In instances when clients lack the capacity to provide informed consent, social workers
should protect clients' interests by seeking permission from an appropriate third party,
informing clients consistent with the clients' level of understanding. In such instances
social workers should seek to ensure that the third party acts in a manner consistent with
clients' wishes and interests. Social workers should take reasonable steps to enhance such
clients' ability to give informed consent.
(d) In instances when clients are receiving services involuntarily, social workers should
provide information about the nature and extent of services and about the extent of clients'
right to refuse service.
(e) Social workers should discuss with clients the social workers’ policies concerning the
use of technology in the provision of professional services.
(f) Social workers who use technology to provide social work services should obtain informed
consent from the individuals using these services during the initial screening or interview
and prior to initiating services. Social workers should assess clients’ capacity to provide
informed consent and, when using technology to communicate, verify the identity and location
(g) Social workers who use technology to provide social work services should assess the
clients’ suitability and capacity for electronic and remote services. Social workers should
consider the clients’ intellectual, emotional, and physical ability to use technology to
receive services and the clients’ ability to understand the potential benefits, risks, and
limitations of such services. If clients do not wish to use services provided through
technology, social workers should help them identify alternate methods of service.
Social workers should obtain clients’ informed consent before making audio or video
recordings of clients or permitting observation of service provision by a third
(i) Social workers should obtain client consent before conducting an electronic search on
the client. Exceptions may arise when the search is for purposes of protecting the client or
other people from serious, foreseeable, and imminent harm, or for other compelling
(a) Social workers should provide services and represent themselves as competent only within
the boundaries of their education, training, license, certification, consultation received,
supervised experience, or other relevant professional experience.
(b) Social workers should provide services in substantive areas or use intervention
techniques or approaches that are new to them only after engaging in appropriate study,
training, consultation, and supervision from people who are competent in those interventions
(c) When generally recognized standards do not exist with respect to an emerging area of
practice, social workers should exercise careful judgment and take responsible steps
(including appropriate education, research, training, consultation, and supervision) to
ensure the competence of their work and to protect clients from harm.
(d) Social workers who use technology in the provision of social work services should ensure
that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide such services in a competent
manner. This includes an understanding of the special communication challenges when using
technology and the ability to implement strategies to address these challenges.
(e) Social workers who use technology in providing social work services should comply with
the laws governing technology and social work practice in the jurisdiction in which they are
regulated and located and, as applicable, in the jurisdiction in which the client is
1.05 Cultural Awareness and Social Diversity
(a) Social workers should understand culture and its function in human behavior and society,
recognizing the strengths that exist in all cultures.
(b) Social workers should have a knowledge base of their clients' cultures and be able to
demonstrate competence in the provision of services that are sensitive to clients' cultures
and to differences among people and cultural groups.
(c) Social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social
diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex,
sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief,
religion, immigration status, and mental or physical ability.
(d) Social workers who provide electronic social work services should be aware of cultural
and socioeconomic differences among clients and how they may use electronic technology.
Social workers should assess cultural, environmental, economic, mental or physical ability,
linguistic, and other issues that may affect the delivery or use of these services.
1.06 Conflicts of Interest
(a) Social workers should be alert to and avoid conflicts of interest that interfere with
the exercise of professional discretion and impartial judgment. Social workers should inform
clients when a real or potential conflict of interest arises and take reasonable steps to
resolve the issue in a manner that makes the clients' interests primary and protects
clients' interests to the greatest extent possible. In some cases, protecting clients'
interests may require termination of the professional relationship with proper referral of
(b) Social workers should not take unfair advantage of any professional relationship or
exploit others to further their personal, religious, political, or business interests.
(c) Social workers should not engage in dual or multiple relationships with clients or
former clients in which there is a risk of exploitation or potential harm to the client. In
instances when dual or multiple relationships are unavoidable, social workers should take
steps to protect clients and are responsible for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally
sensitive boundaries. (Dual or multiple relationships occur when social workers relate to
clients in more than one relationship, whether professional, social, or business. Dual or
multiple relationships can occur simultaneously or consecutively.)
(d) When social workers provide services to two or more people who have a relationship with
each other (for example, couples, family members), social workers should clarify with all
parties which individuals will be considered clients and the nature of social workers'
professional obligations to the various individuals who are receiving services. Social
workers who anticipate a conflict of interest among the individuals receiving services or
who anticipate having to perform in potentially conflicting roles (for example, when a
social worker is asked to testify in a child custody dispute or divorce proceedings
involving clients) should clarify their role with the parties involved and take appropriate
action to minimize any conflict of interest.
(e) Social workers should avoid communication with clients using technology (such as social
networking sites, online chat, e-mail, text messages, telephone, and video) for personal or
(f) Social workers should be aware that posting personal information on professional Web
sites or other media might cause boundary confusion, inappropriate dual relationships, or
harm to clients.
(g) Social workers should be aware that personal affiliations may increase the likelihood
that clients may discover the social worker’s presence on Web sites, social media, and other
forms of technology. Social workers should be aware that involvement in electronic
communication with groups based on race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, gender
identity or expression, mental or physical ability, religion, immigration status, and other
personal affiliations may affect their ability to work effectively with particular clients.
(h) Social workers should avoid accepting requests from or engaging in personal
relationships with clients on social networking sites or other electronic media to prevent
boundary confusion, inappropriate dual relationships, or harm to clients.
1.07 Privacy and Confidentiality
(a) Social workers should respect clients' right to privacy. Social workers should not
solicit private information from or about clients except for compelling professional
reasons. Once private information is shared, standards of confidentiality apply.
(b) Social workers may disclose confidential information when appropriate with valid consent
from a client or a person legally authorized to consent on behalf of a client.
(c) Social workers should protect the confidentiality of all information obtained in the
course of professional service, except for compelling professional reasons. The general
expectation that social workers will keep information confidential does not apply when
disclosure is necessary to prevent serious, foreseeable, and imminent harm to a client or
others. In all instances, social workers should disclose the least amount of confidential
information necessary to achieve the desired purpose; only information that is directly
relevant to the purpose for which the disclosure is made should be revealed.
(d) Social workers should inform clients, to the extent possible, about the disclosure of
confidential information and the potential consequences, when feasible before the disclosure
is made. This applies whether social workers disclose confidential information on the basis
of a legal requirement or client consent.
(e) Social workers should discuss with clients and other interested parties the nature of
confidentiality and limitations of clients' right to confidentiality. Social workers should
review with clients circumstances where confidential information may be requested and where
disclosure of confidential information may be legally required. This discussion should occur
as soon as possible in the social worker-client relationship and as needed throughout the
course of the relationship.
(f) When social workers provide counseling services to families, couples, or groups, social
workers should seek agreement among the parties involved concerning each individual's right
to confidentiality and obligation to preserve the confidentiality of information shared by
others. This agreement should include consideration of whether confidential information may
be exchanged in person or electronically, among clients or with others outside of formal
counseling sessions. Social workers should inform participants in family, couples, or group
counseling that social workers cannot guarantee that all participants will honor such
(g) Social workers should inform clients involved in family, couples, marital, or group
counseling of the social worker's, employer's, and agency's policy concerning the social
worker's disclosure of confidential information among the parties involved in the
(h) Social workers should not disclose confidential information to third-party payers unless
clients have authorized such disclosure.
(i) Social workers should not discuss confidential information, electronically or in person,
in any setting unless privacy can be ensured. Social workers should not discuss confidential
information in public or semi-public areas such as hallways, waiting rooms, elevators, and
(j) Social workers should protect the confidentiality of clients during legal proceedings to
the extent permitted by law. When a court of law or other legally authorized body orders
social workers to disclose confidential or privileged information without a client's consent
and such disclosure could cause harm to the client, social workers should request that the
court withdraw the order or limit the order as narrowly as possible or maintain the records
under seal, unavailable for public inspection.
(k) Social workers should protect the confidentiality of clients when responding to requests
from members of the media.
(l) Social workers should protect the confidentiality of clients' written and electronic
records and other sensitive information. Social workers should take reasonable steps to
ensure that clients' records are stored in a secure location and that clients' records are
not available to others who are not authorized to have access.
(m) Social workers should take reasonable steps to protect the confidentiality of electronic
communications, including information provided to clients or third parties. Social workers
should use applicable safeguards (such as encryption, firewalls, and passwords) when using
electronic communications such as e-mail, online posts, online chat sessions, mobile
communication, and text messages
(n) Social workers should develop and disclose policies and procedures for notifying clients
of any breach of confidential information in a timely manner.
(o) In the event of unauthorized access to client records or information, including any
unauthorized access to the social worker’s electronic communication or storage systems,
social workers should inform clients of such disclosures, consistent with applicable laws
and professional standards.
(p) Social workers should develop and inform clients about their policies, consistent with
prevailing social work ethical standards, on the use of electronic technology, including
Internet-based search engines, to gather information about clients.
(q) Social workers should avoid searching or gathering client information electronically
unless there are compelling professional reasons, and when appropriate, with the client’s
(r) Social workers should avoid posting any identifying or confidential information about
clients on professional websites or other forms of social media.
(s) Social workers should transfer or dispose of clients' records in a manner that protects
clients' confidentiality and is consistent with applicable laws governing records and social
(t) Social workers should take reasonable precautions to protect client confidentiality in
the event of the social worker's termination of practice, incapacitation, or death.
(u) Social workers should not disclose identifying information when discussing clients for
teaching or training purposes unless the client has consented to disclosure of confidential
(v) Social workers should not disclose identifying information when discussing clients with
consultants unless the client has consented to disclosure of confidential information or
there is a compelling need for such disclosure.
(w) Social workers should protect the confidentiality of deceased clients consistent with
the preceding standards.
1.08 Access to Records
(a) Social workers should provide clients with reasonable access to records concerning the
clients. Social workers who are concerned that clients' access to their records could cause
serious misunderstanding or harm to the client should provide assistance in interpreting the
records and consultation with the client regarding the records. Social workers should limit
clients' access to their records, or portions of their records, only in exceptional
circumstances when there is compelling evidence that such access would cause serious harm to
the client. Both clients' requests and the rationale for withholding some or all of the
record should be documented in clients' files.
(b) Social workers should develop and inform clients about their policies, consistent with
prevailing social work ethical standards, on the use of technology to provide clients with
access to their records.
(c) When providing clients with access to their records, social workers should take steps to
protect the confidentiality of other individuals identified or discussed in such records.
1.09 Sexual Relationships
(a) Social workers should under no circumstances engage in sexual activities, inappropriate
sexual communications through the use of technology or in person, or sexual contact with
current clients, whether such contact is consensual or forced.
(b) Social workers should not engage in sexual activities or sexual contact with clients'
relatives or other individuals with whom clients maintain a close personal relationship when
there is a risk of exploitation or potential harm to the client. Sexual activity or sexual
contact with clients' relatives or other individuals with whom clients maintain a personal
relationship has the potential to be harmful to the client and may make it difficult for the
social worker and client to maintain appropriate professional boundaries. Social
workers--not their clients, their clients' relatives, or other individuals with whom the
client maintains a personal relationship--assume the full burden for setting clear,
appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries.
(c) Social workers should not engage in sexual activities or sexual contact with former
clients because of the potential for harm to the client. If social workers engage in conduct
contrary to this prohibition or claim that an exception to this prohibition is warranted
because of extraordinary circumstances, it is social workers--not their clients--who assume
the full burden of demonstrating that the former client has not been exploited, coerced, or
manipulated, intentionally or unintentionally.
(d) Social workers should not provide clinical services to individuals with whom they have
had a prior sexual relationship. Providing clinical services to a former sexual partner has
the potential to be harmful to the individual and is likely to make it difficult for the
social worker and individual to maintain appropriate professional boundaries.
1.10 Physical Contact
Social workers should not engage in physical contact with clients when there is a
possibility of psychological harm to the client as a result of the contact (such as cradling
or caressing clients). Social workers who engage in appropriate physical contact with
clients are responsible for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries
that govern such physical contact.
1.11 Sexual Harassment
Social workers should not sexually harass clients. Sexual harassment includes sexual
advances; sexual solicitation; requests for sexual favors; and other verbal, written,
electronic, or physical contact of a sexual nature.
1.12 Derogatory Language
Social workers should not use derogatory language in their written, verbal, or electronic
communications to or about clients. Social workers should use accurate and respectful
language in all communications to and about clients.
1.13 Payment for Services
(a) When setting fees, social workers should ensure that the fees are fair, reasonable, and
commensurate with the services performed. Consideration should be given to clients' ability
(b) Social workers should avoid accepting goods or services from clients as payment for
professional services. Bartering arrangements, particularly involving services, create the
potential for conflicts of interest, exploitation, and inappropriate boundaries in social
workers' relationships with clients. Social workers should explore and may participate in
bartering only in very limited circumstances when it can be demonstrated that such
arrangements are an accepted practice among professionals in the local community, considered
to be essential for the provision of services, negotiated without coercion, and entered into
at the client's initiative and with the client's informed consent. Social workers who accept
goods or services from clients as payment for professional services assume the full burden
of demonstrating that this arrangement will not be detrimental to the client or the
(c) Social workers should not solicit a private fee or other remuneration for providing
services to clients who are entitled to such available services through the social workers'
employer or agency.
1.14 Clients Who Lack Decision-Making Capacity
When social workers act on behalf of clients who lack the capacity to make informed
decisions, social workers should take reasonable steps to safeguard the interests and rights
of those clients.
1.15 Interruption of Services
Social workers should make reasonable efforts to ensure continuity of services in the event
that services are interrupted by factors such as unavailability, disruptions in electronic
communication, relocation, illness, mental or physical ability, or death.
1.16 Referral for Services
(a) Social workers should refer clients to other professionals when the other professionals'
specialized knowledge or expertise is needed to serve clients fully or when social workers
believe that they are not being effective or making reasonable progress with clients and
that other services are required.
(b) Social workers who refer clients to other professionals should take appropriate steps to
facilitate an orderly transfer of responsibility. Social workers who refer clients to other
professionals should disclose, with clients' consent, all pertinent information to the new
(c) Social workers are prohibited from giving or receiving payment for a referral when no
professional service is provided by the referring social worker.
1.17 Termination of Services
(a) Social workers should terminate services to clients and professional relationships with
them when such services and relationships are no longer required or no longer serve the
clients' needs or interests.
(b) Social workers should take reasonable steps to avoid abandoning clients who are still in
need of services. Social workers should withdraw services precipitously only under unusual
circumstances, giving careful consideration to all factors in the situation and taking care
to minimize possible adverse effects. Social workers should assist in making appropriate
arrangements for continuation of services when necessary.
(c) Social workers in fee-for-service settings may terminate services to clients who are not
paying an overdue balance if the financial contractual arrangements have been made clear to
the client, if the client does not pose an imminent danger to self or others, and if the
clinical and other consequences of the current nonpayment have been addressed and discussed
with the client.
(d) Social workers should not terminate services to pursue a social, financial, or sexual
relationship with a client.
(e) Social workers who anticipate the termination or interruption of services to clients
should notify clients promptly and seek the transfer, referral, or continuation of services
in relation to the clients' needs and preferences.
(f) Social workers who are leaving an employment setting should inform clients of
appropriate options for the continuation of services and of the benefits and risks of the
2. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to Colleagues
(a) Social workers should treat colleagues with respect and should represent accurately and
fairly the qualifications, views, and obligations of colleagues.
(b) Social workers should avoid unwarranted negative criticism of colleagues in verbal,
written, and electronic communications with clients or with other professionals. Unwarranted
negative criticism may include demeaning comments that refer to colleagues' level of
competence or to individuals' attributes such as race, ethnicity, national origin, color,
sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political
belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical ability.
(c) Social workers should cooperate with social work colleagues and with colleagues of other
professions when such cooperation serves the well-being of clients.
Social workers should respect confidential information shared by colleagues in the course of
their professional relationships and transactions. Social workers should ensure that such
colleagues understand social workers' obligation to respect confidentiality and any
exceptions related to it.
2.03 Interdisciplinary Collaboration
(a) Social workers who are members of an interdisciplinary team should participate in and
contribute to decisions that affect the well-being of clients by drawing on the
perspectives, values, and experiences of the social work profession. Professional and
ethical obligations of the interdisciplinary team as a whole and of its individual members
should be clearly established.
(b) Social workers for whom a team decision raises ethical concerns should attempt to
resolve the disagreement through appropriate channels. If the disagreement cannot be
resolved, social workers should pursue other avenues to address their concerns consistent
with client well-being.
2.04 Disputes Involving Colleagues
(a) Social workers should not take advantage of a dispute between a colleague and an
employer to obtain a position or otherwise advance the social workers' own interests.
(b) Social workers should not exploit clients in disputes with colleagues or engage clients
in any inappropriate discussion of conflicts between social workers and their colleagues.
(a) Social workers should seek the advice and counsel of colleagues whenever such
consultation is in the best interests of clients.
(b) Social workers should keep themselves informed about colleagues' areas of expertise and
competencies. Social workers should seek consultation only from colleagues who have
demonstrated knowledge, expertise, and competence related to the subject of the
(c) When consulting with colleagues about clients, social workers should disclose the least
amount of information necessary to achieve the purposes of the consultation.
2.06 Sexual Relationships
(a) Social workers who function as supervisors or educators should not engage in sexual
activities or contact (including verbal, written, electronic, or physical contact) with
supervisees, students, trainees, or other colleagues over whom they exercise professional
(b) Social workers should avoid engaging in sexual relationships with colleagues when there
is potential for a conflict of interest. Social workers who become involved in, or
anticipate becoming involved in, a sexual relationship with a colleague have a duty to
transfer professional responsibilities, when necessary, to avoid a conflict of interest.
2.07 Sexual Harassment
Social workers should not sexually harass supervisees, students, trainees, or colleagues.
Sexual harassment includes sexual advances; sexual solicitation; requests for sexual favors;
and other verbal, written, electronic, or physical contact of a sexual nature.
2.08 Impairment of Colleagues
(a) Social workers who have direct knowledge of a social work colleague's impairment that is
due to personal problems, psychosocial distress, substance abuse, or mental health
difficulties and that interferes with practice effectiveness should consult with that
colleague when feasible and assist the colleague in taking remedial action.
(b) Social workers who believe that a social work colleague's impairment interferes with
practice effectiveness and that the colleague has not taken adequate steps to address the
impairment should take action through appropriate channels established by employers,
agencies, NASW, licensing and regulatory bodies, and other professional organizations.
2.09 Incompetence of Colleagues
(a) Social workers who have direct knowledge of a social work colleague's incompetence
should consult with that colleague when feasible and assist the colleague in taking remedial
(b) Social workers who believe that a social work colleague is incompetent and has not taken
adequate steps to address the incompetence should take action through appropriate channels
established by employers, agencies, NASW, licensing and regulatory bodies, and other
2.10 Unethical Conduct of Colleagues
(a) Social workers should take adequate measures to discourage, prevent, expose, and correct
the unethical conduct of colleagues, including unethical conduct using technology.
(b) Social workers should be knowledgeable about established policies and procedures for
handling concerns about colleagues' unethical behavior. Social workers should be familiar
with national, state, and local procedures for handling ethics complaints. These include
policies and procedures created by NASW, licensing and regulatory bodies, employers,
agencies, and other professional organizations.
(c) Social workers who believe that a colleague has acted unethically should seek resolution
by discussing their concerns with the colleague when feasible and when such discussion is
likely to be productive.
(d) When necessary, social workers who believe that a colleague has acted unethically should
take action through appropriate formal channels (such as contacting a state licensing board
or regulatory body, the NASW National Ethics Committee, or other professional ethics
(e) Social workers should defend and assist colleagues who are unjustly charged with
3. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities in Practice Settings
3.01 Supervision and Consultation
(a) Social workers who provide supervision or consultation (whether in-person or remotely)
should have the necessary knowledge and skill to supervise or consult appropriately and
should do so only within their areas of knowledge and competence.
(b) Social workers who provide supervision or consultation are responsible for setting
clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries.
(c) Social workers should not engage in any dual or multiple relationships with supervisees
in which there is a risk of exploitation of or potential harm to the supervisee, including
dual relationships that may arise while using social networking sites or other electronic
(d) Social workers who provide supervision should evaluate supervisees' performance in a
manner that is fair and respectful.
3.02 Education and Training
(a) Social workers who function as educators, field instructors for students, or trainers
should provide instruction only within their areas of knowledge and competence and should
provide instruction based on the most current information and knowledge available in the
(b) Social workers who function as educators or field instructors for students should
evaluate students' performance in a manner that is fair and respectful.
(c) Social workers who function as educators or field instructors for students should take
reasonable steps to ensure that clients are routinely informed when services are being
provided by students.
(d) Social workers who function as educators or field instructors for students should not
engage in any dual or multiple relationships with students in which there is a risk of
exploitation or potential harm to the student, including dual relationships that may arise
while using social networking sites or other electronic media. Social work educators and
field instructors are responsible for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive
3.03 Performance Evaluation
Social workers who have responsibility for evaluating the performance of others should
fulfill such responsibility in a fair and considerate manner and on the basis of clearly
3.04 Client Records
(a) Social workers should take reasonable steps to ensure that documentation in electronic
and paper records is accurate and reflects the services provided.
(b) Social workers should include sufficient and timely documentation in records to
facilitate the delivery of services and to ensure continuity of services provided to clients
in the future.
(c) Social workers' documentation should protect clients' privacy to the extent that is
possible and appropriate and should include only information that is directly relevant to
the delivery of services.
(d) Social workers should store records following the termination of services to ensure
reasonable future access. Records should be maintained for the number of years required by
relevant laws, agency policies, and contracts.
Social workers should establish and maintain billing practices that accurately reflect the
nature and extent of services provided and that identify who provided the service in the
3.06 Client Transfer
(a) When an individual who is receiving services from another agency or colleague contacts a
social worker for services, the social worker should carefully consider the client's needs
before agreeing to provide services. To minimize possible confusion and conflict, social
workers should discuss with potential clients the nature of the clients' current
relationship with other service providers and the implications, including possible benefits
or risks, of entering into a relationship with a new service provider.
(b) If a new client has been served by another agency or colleague, social workers should
discuss with the client whether consultation with the previous service provider is in the
client's best interest.
(a) Social work administrators should advocate within and outside their agencies for
adequate resources to meet clients' needs.
(b) Social workers should advocate for resource allocation procedures that are open and
fair. When not all clients' needs can be met, an allocation procedure should be developed
that is nondiscriminatory and based on appropriate and consistently applied principles.
(c) Social workers who are administrators should take reasonable steps to ensure that
adequate agency or organizational resources are available to provide appropriate staff
(d) Social work administrators should take reasonable steps to ensure that the working
environment for which they are responsible is consistent with and encourages compliance with
the NASW Code of Ethics. Social work administrators should take reasonable steps to
eliminate any conditions in their organizations that violate, interfere with, or discourage
compliance with the Code.
3.08 Continuing Education and Staff Development
Social work administrators and supervisors should take reasonable steps to provide or
arrange for continuing education and staff development for all staff for whom they are
responsible. Continuing education and staff development should address current knowledge and
emerging developments related to social work practice and ethics.
3.09 Commitments to Employers
(a) Social workers generally should adhere to commitments made to employers and employing
(b) Social workers should work to improve employing agencies' policies and procedures and
the efficiency and effectiveness of their services.
(c) Social workers should take reasonable steps to ensure that employers are aware of social
workers' ethical obligations as set forth in the NASW Code of Ethics and of the implications
of those obligations for social work practice.
(d) Social workers should not allow an employing organization's policies, procedures,
regulations, or administrative orders to interfere with their ethical practice of social
work. Social workers should take reasonable steps to ensure that their employing
organizations' practices are consistent with the NASW Code of Ethics.
(e) Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate discrimination in the employing
organization's work assignments and in its employment policies and practices.
(f) Social workers should accept employment or arrange student field placements only in
organizations that exercise fair personnel practices.
(g) Social workers should be diligent stewards of the resources of their employing
organizations, wisely conserving funds where appropriate and never misappropriating funds or
using them for unintended purposes.
3.10 Labor-Management Disputes
(a) Social workers may engage in organized action, including the formation of and
participation in labor unions, to improve services to clients and working conditions.
(b) The actions of social workers who are involved in labor-management disputes, job
actions, or labor strikes should be guided by the profession's values, ethical principles,
and ethical standards. Reasonable differences of opinion exist among social workers
concerning their primary obligation as professionals during an actual or threatened labor
strike or job action. Social workers should carefully examine relevant issues and their
possible impact on clients before deciding on a course of action.
4. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities as Professionals
(a) Social workers should accept responsibility or employment only on the basis of existing
competence or the intention to acquire the necessary competence.
(b) Social workers should strive to become and remain proficient in professional practice
and the performance of professional functions. Social workers should critically examine and
keep current with emerging knowledge relevant to social work. Social workers should
routinely review the professional literature and participate in continuing education
relevant to social work practice and social work ethics.
(c) Social workers should base practice on recognized knowledge, including empirically based
knowledge, relevant to social work and social work ethics.
Social workers should not practice, condone, facilitate, or collaborate with any form of
discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual
orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion,
immigration status, or mental or physical ability.
4.03 Private Conduct
Social workers should not permit their private conduct to interfere with their ability to
fulfill their professional responsibilities.
4.04 Dishonesty, Fraud, and Deception
Social workers should not participate in, condone, or be associated with dishonesty, fraud,
(a) Social workers should not allow their own personal problems, psychosocial distress,
legal problems, substance abuse, or mental health difficulties to interfere with their
professional judgment and performance or to jeopardize the best interests of people for whom
they have a professional responsibility.
(b) Social workers whose personal problems, psychosocial distress, legal problems, substance
abuse, or mental health difficulties interfere with their professional judgment and
performance should immediately seek consultation and take appropriate remedial action by
seeking professional help, making adjustments in workload, terminating practice, or taking
any other steps necessary to protect clients and others.
(a) Social workers should make clear distinctions between statements made and actions
engaged in as a private individual and as a representative of the social work profession, a
professional social work organization, or the social worker's employing agency.
(b) Social workers who speak on behalf of professional social work organizations should
accurately represent the official and authorized positions of the organizations.
(c) Social workers should ensure that their representations to clients, agencies, and the
public of professional qualifications, credentials, education, competence, affiliations,
services provided, or results to be achieved are accurate. Social workers should claim only
those relevant professional credentials they actually possess and take steps to correct any
inaccuracies or misrepresentations of their credentials by others.
(a) Social workers should not engage in uninvited solicitation of potential clients who,
because of their circumstances, are vulnerable to undue influence, manipulation, or
(b) Social workers should not engage in solicitation of testimonial endorsements (including
solicitation of consent to use a client's prior statement as a testimonial endorsement) from
current clients or from other people who, because of their particular circumstances, are
vulnerable to undue influence.
4.08 Acknowledging Credit
(a) Social workers should take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only
for work they have actually performed and to which they have contributed.
(b) Social workers should honestly acknowledge the work of and the contributions made by
5. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to the Social Work Profession
5.01 Integrity of the Profession
(a) Social workers should work toward the maintenance and promotion of high standards of
(b) Social workers should uphold and advance the values, ethics, knowledge, and mission of
the profession. Social workers should protect, enhance, and improve the integrity of the
profession through appropriate study and research, active discussion, and responsible
criticism of the profession.
(c) Social workers should contribute time and professional expertise to activities that
promote respect for the value, integrity, and competence of the social work profession.
These activities may include teaching, research, consultation, service, legislative
testimony, presentations in the community, and participation in their professional
(d) Social workers should contribute to the knowledge base of social work and share with
colleagues their knowledge related to practice, research, and ethics. Social workers should
seek to contribute to the profession's literature and to share their knowledge at
professional meetings and conferences.
(e) Social workers should act to prevent the unauthorized and unqualified practice of social
5.02 Evaluation and Research
(a) Social workers should monitor and evaluate policies, the implementation of programs, and
(b) Social workers should promote and facilitate evaluation and research to contribute to
the development of knowledge.
(c) Social workers should critically examine and keep current with emerging knowledge
relevant to social work and fully use evaluation and research evidence in their professional
(d) Social workers engaged in evaluation or research should carefully consider possible
consequences and should follow guidelines developed for the protection of evaluation and
research participants. Appropriate institutional review boards should be consulted.
(e) Social workers engaged in evaluation or research should obtain voluntary and written
informed consent from participants, when appropriate, without any implied or actual
deprivation or penalty for refusal to participate; without undue inducement to participate;
and with due regard for participants' well-being, privacy, and dignity. Informed consent
should include information about the nature, extent, and duration of the participation
requested and disclosure of the risks and benefits of participation in the research.
(f) When using electronic technology to facilitate evaluation or research, social workers
should ensure that participants provide informed consent for the use of such technology.
Social workers should assess whether participants are able to use the technology and, when
appropriate, offer reasonable alternatives to participate in the evaluation or research.
(g) When evaluation or research participants are incapable of giving informed consent,
social workers should provide an appropriate explanation to the participants, obtain the
participants' assent to the extent they are able, and obtain written consent from an
(h) Social workers should never design or conduct evaluation or research that does not use
consent procedures, such as certain forms of naturalistic observation and archival research,
unless rigorous and responsible review of the research has found it to be justified because
of its prospective scientific, educational, or applied value and unless equally effective
alternative procedures that do not involve waiver of consent are not feasible.
(i) Social workers should inform participants of their right to withdraw from evaluation and
research at any time without penalty.
(j) Social workers should take appropriate steps to ensure that participants in evaluation
and research have access to appropriate supportive services.
(k) Social workers engaged in evaluation or research should protect participants from
unwarranted physical or mental distress, harm, danger, or deprivation.
(l) Social workers engaged in the evaluation of services should discuss collected
information only for professional purposes and only with people professionally concerned
with this information.
(m) Social workers engaged in evaluation or research should ensure the anonymity or
confidentiality of participants and of the data obtained from them. Social workers should
inform participants of any limits of confidentiality, the measures that will be taken to
ensure confidentiality, and when any records containing research data will be destroyed.
(n) Social workers who report evaluation and research results should protect participants'
confidentiality by omitting identifying information unless proper consent has been obtained
(o) Social workers should report evaluation and research findings accurately. They should
not fabricate or falsify results and should take steps to correct any errors later found in
published data using standard publication methods.
(p) Social workers engaged in evaluation or research should be alert to and avoid conflicts
of interest and dual relationships with participants, should inform participants when a real
or potential conflict of interest arises, and should take steps to resolve the issue in a
manner that makes participants' interests primary.
(q) Social workers should educate themselves, their students, and their colleagues about
responsible research practices.
6. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to the Broader Society
6.01 Social Welfare
Social workers should promote the general welfare of society, from local to global levels,
and the development of people, their communities, and their environments. Social workers
should advocate for living conditions conducive to the fulfillment of basic human needs and
should promote social, economic, political, and cultural values and institutions that are
compatible with the realization of social justice.
6.02 Public Participation
Social workers should facilitate informed participation by the public in shaping social
policies and institutions.
6.03 Public Emergencies
Social workers should provide appropriate professional services in public emergencies to the
greatest extent possible.
6.04 Social and Political Action
(a) Social workers should engage in social and political action that seeks to ensure that
all people have equal access to the resources, employment, services, and opportunities they
require to meet their basic human needs and to develop fully. Social workers should be aware
of the impact of the political arena on practice and should advocate for changes in policy
and legislation to improve social conditions in order to meet basic human needs and promote
(b) Social workers should act to expand choice and opportunity for all people, with special
regard for vulnerable, disadvantaged, oppressed, and exploited people and groups.
(c) Social workers should promote conditions that encourage respect for cultural and social
diversity within the United States and globally. Social workers should promote policies and
practices that demonstrate respect for difference, support the expansion of cultural
knowledge and resources, advocate for programs and institutions that demonstrate cultural
competence, and promote policies that safeguard the rights of and confirm equity and social
justice for all people.
(d) Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and
discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national
origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status,
political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical ability.