Ethical Standard of the Month

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The Ethical Standard of the Month (ESOM) series walks through the revised NASW Code of Ethics, highlighting significant revisions. The ESOM examines specific standards from the NASW Code of Ethics and related resources that promote the understanding and appropriate application of the Code.

Selected Standards

1.03 Informed Consent

Standard 1.03 of the NASW Code of Ethics was subject to significant revisions that were largely related to social workers’ policies and procedures concerning the use of technology in the provision of professional services. 

1.04 Competence

Changes to section 1.04 largely focus on social workers’ competency as it relates to using technology and embarking on the use of new forms of technology. 

1.05 Cultural Awareness and Social Diversity

Revisions related to standard 1.05 included a change to the title from “Cultural Competence and Social Diversity” to “Cultural Awareness and Social Diversity.” 

1.06 Conflicts of Interest

Revisions to the “Conflicts of Interest” section resulted in the addition of four new standards

1.07 Privacy and Confidentiality

Section 1.07is the longest in the NASW Code of Ethics and accordingly was subject to the most revision.

1.08 Access to Records

This standard was revised to include a new standard.

1.09 Sexual Relationships

Standard 1.09 details the prohibitions against sexual activities with current and former clients, and with clients’ relatives and close associates. 

1.11 Sexual Harassment

Standard 1.11 states that social workers should not sexually harass clients. The revision to this standard specifically addresses the fact that “written or electronic communications” are included among the range of behaviors that the term “sexual harassment” encompasses.

1.15 Interruption of Services

Standard 1.15 advises social workers to make reasonable efforts to ensure continuity of services in the event that services are interrupted.

1.16 Referral for Services

The Referral for Services standard was revised in two ways. First, the standard, previously numbered 2.06 is now 1.16. Second, the language in 1.16(a) was modified to clarify that referrals for services in this context address situations when social workers identify new services to replace services currently being provided.

1.17 Termination of Services

Termination of Services was formerly 1.16, and is now standard 1.17. There were no revisions to the content of this standard.

2.01 Respect

Standard 2.01 focuses on social workers’ ethical responsibilities to colleagues. Revisions to 2.01 specify that social workers should communicate with colleagues respectfully, including in electronic communications. In addition, the reference to “mental and physical disability” was replaced with “mental and physical ability.”

2.10 Unethical Conduct of Colleagues

Formerly standard 2.11 of the NASW Code of Ethics, this standard was revised to include the use of technology.

3.01 Supervision and Consultation

Changes to standard 3.01 of the NASW Code of Ethics, Supervision and Consultation, reference the use of technology and providing these services remotely.

3.02 Education and Training

This standard focuses on the ethical responsibilities of social workers who function as educators, field instructors, or trainers.

3.04 Client Records

This standard addresses ethical requirements related to documentation and the maintenance of client records.

5.02 Evaluation and Research

There are now 16 standards in this section, including new content that incorporates guidance for social workers using electronic technology in evaluation and research.

6.04 Social and Political Action

This standard addresses social workers’ responsibilities to the broader society.

Read Pre-2018 Ethical Standards of the Month >>