THE OMBUDSMAN ASSOCIATION
STANDARDS OF PRACTICE
The mission of the organizational ombudsman is to provide a confidential, neutral and informal process which facilitates fair and equitable resolutions to concerns that arise in the organization. In performing this mission, the ombudsman serves as an information and communication resource, upward feedback channel, advisor, dispute resolution expert and change agent.
While serving in this role:
1. We adhere to The Ombudsman Association Code of Ethics.
2. We base our practice on confidentiality.
2.1 An ombudsman should not use the names of individuals or mention their employers without express permission.
2.2 During the problem-solving process an ombudsman may make known information as long as the identity of the individual contacting the office is not compromised.
2.3 Any data that we prepare should be scrutinized carefully to safeguard the identity of each individual whose concerns are represented.
2.4 Publicity about our office conveys the confidential nature of our work.
3. We assert that there is a privilege with respect to communications with the ombudsman and we resist testifying in any formal process inside or outside the organization.
3.1 Communications between an ombudsman and others (made while the ombudsman is serving in that capacity) are considered privileged. Others cannot waive this privilege.
3.2 We do not serve in any additional function in the organization which would undermine the privileged nature of our work. An ombudsman will recuse oneself whenever a conflict of interest arises.
3.3 An ombudsman keeps no case records on behalf of the organization. If an ombudsman finds case notes necessary to manage the work, the ombudsman should establish and follow a consistent and standard practice for the destruction of any such written notes.
4. An ombudsman strives for objectivity and impartiality.
4.1 The ombudsman has a responsibility to consider the concerns of all parties known to be involved in a dispute.
4.2 We do not serve as advocates for any person in a dispute within an organization; however, we do advocate for fair processes and their fair administration.
4.3 We help develop a range of responsible options to resolve problems and facilitate discussion to identify the best options. When possible, we help people develop new ways to solve problems themselves.
4.4 We do not make binding decisions, mandate policies or adjudicate issues for the organization
5. Individuals should not be required to meet with an ombudsman. All interactions with the ombudsman should be voluntary.
6. We foster communication about the philosophy and function of the ombudsman’s office with the people we serve.
7. We provide feedback on trends, issues, policies and practices without breaching confidentiality or anonymity. We identify new problems and we provide support for responsible systems change.
8. We will endeavor to be worthy of the trust placed in us.
Confidential: Confidential describes communications, or a source of communications, which are intended to be held in secret. In an ombudsman’s work confidentiality is often accomplished by providing anonymity to the source of communications. When the source of a communication is kept secret or private, this is known as an anonymous communication. Back to #2
Privilege: Privilege is a legal term which describes a relationship which the law protects from forced disclosure. Traditional privileges are client/lawyer, doctor/patient, priest/penitent, husband/wife. An ombudsman privilege differs from these other forms of privilege because the office holds the privilege and it cannot be waived by others. The privilege is necessary to preserve the process that allows people to come forward to resolve their concerns in a confidential setting without the risk of reprisal. Back to #3
© 1997 The Ombudsman Association