New code of conduct

During his talk to the staff at the beginning of the year, the Director-General mentioned that a new code of conduct was being drawn up. What exactly is it and what is its purpose? Anne-Sylvie Catherin, Head of the Human Resources (HR) Department, talked to us about the whys and wherefores of the project.


Drawing by Georges Boixader from the cartoon strip “The World of Particles” by Brian Southworth.

A code of conduct is a general framework laying down the behaviour expected of all members of an organisation's personnel. “CERN is one of the very few international organisations that don’t yet have one", explains Anne-Sylvie Catherin. “We have been thinking about introducing a code of conduct for a long time but lacked the necessary resources until now”.

The call for a code of conduct has come from different sources within the Laboratory. “The Equal Opportunities Advisory Panel (read also the "Equal opportunities in diversity" article) has been advocating common rules of behaviour to prevent various types of conflict arising, while the Internal Audit and the Purchasing Service have requested rules governing certain procedures as well as relations with suppliers, and the Users committee (ACCU) wants to know exactly what the Organization expects of its thousands of users.  A code of conduct will also be very useful in the event of any problems as it will provide supervisors with a point of reference. Last but not least, the Member States are also in favour of a code of conduct", says Anne-Sylvie.

Since autumn 2009, the HR Department has been working on the new document in conjunction with external consultants and internal CERN working groups. “We made sure that people from across the entire Organization were represented in the working groups: CERN staff and other members of the personnel, users, the Staff Association, the CERN Management, and outside contractors and the unions. To avoid reinventing the wheel, we brought in outside consultants with extensive human resources experience who have helped other institutions in both the public and the private sectors to draw up codes of conduct", she explains.

Every organisation has its own specific code of conduct. CERN is a physics laboratory where the atmosphere is rather informal. Although the code will apply to everyone working on the Organization’s site, it will not resemble a detailed legal document dictating how you have to dress or the types of jokes you can and cannot make. “The goal is not to impose strict rules of behaviour but to promote conduct that is acceptable and agreeable to everyone and respects individual differences", she explains. The main points of the code will be linked to the Organization’s values, namely commitment, integrity, professionalism, efficiency and diversity. This will allow us to translate seemingly abstract concepts into something concrete”.

The various people involved in the project are working flat out on it at the moment. A first version of the document was submitted to the Director-General at the beginning of the year. The internal consultation phase will start shortly, and the final version is due for the summer.


by Laëtitia Pedroso