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
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 others.)
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
(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
(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 of
(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.
(h) Social workers should obtain clients' informed consent before making audio or video recordings of them or permitting observation of services to clients by a third party.
(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 or
(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
(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
(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 the client.
(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 non-work-related
(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
(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
(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
(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
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 agreements.
(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 semipublic areas such as
hallways, waiting rooms, elevators, and restaurants.
(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
(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
(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 informed
(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 work
(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
(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
(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
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 to pay.
(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 professional
(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
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 service providers.
(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
(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 options.
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
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
(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 consultation.
(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 authority.
(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
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
(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
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 action.
(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
(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
(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,
National Ethics Committee, or other professional ethics committees).
(e) Social workers should defend and assist colleagues who are unjustly charged with unethical conduct.
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
(b) Social workers who provide supervision or consultation are
responsible for setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive
(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 media.
(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 boundaries.
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 stated criteria.
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 practice setting.
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
(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
(c) Social workers who are administrators should take reasonable
steps to ensure that adequate agency or organizational resources are
available to provide appropriate staff supervision.
(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 organizations.
(b) Social workers should work to improve employing agencies'
policies and procedures and the efficiency and effectiveness of their
(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
(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
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
(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
4.04 Dishonesty, Fraud, and Deception
Social workers should not participate in, condone, or be associated with dishonesty, fraud, or deception.
(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
(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 coercion.
(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 others.
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 practice.
(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
(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 work.
5.02 Evaluation and Research
(a) Social workers should monitor and evaluate policies, the implementation of programs, and practice interventions.
(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 practice.
(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
(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
(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 social justice.
(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