The SLIANZ Code of Conduct was revised and approved in July 2012.

Download the complete SLIANZ Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct in .pdf format


This Code of Conduct gives guidance to interpreters on how to apply the intent of the Code of Ethics. To ensure consistency across the profession, the points below set out the kind of conduct that is generally expected of interpreters.

In some contexts, practice norms for sign language interpreters may differ from these general guidelines in some contexts, where specific protocols, duty of care, or the overall goals of participants must be considered in the way that an interpreter functions and relates to others (e.g. educational, mental health, church, marae).

It also has to be acknowledged that the NZSL interpreting workforce is still small and cannot always meet demand in every locality. The points in this Code of Conduct describe an ideal model of practice that may not be achievable in every instance. For example, interpreters may at times be called on to interpret for family and friends, and they may have to undertake work that is potentially beyond their current competency level. It is nevertheless important to set out the ideal here.

Above all, interpreters should use their professional judgment to conduct themselves in ways that have the least harmful impacts, and that align with the aims of the Code of Ethics.

1. Professional Conduct


1.1.1 Interpreters maintain their integrity at all times.

  • Interpreters are honest and trustworthy in relationships with consumers and employers.
  • Interpreters account and charge for their time accurately and honestly.
  • Interpreters avoid behaviour at work or outside of work that may reflect poorly on the reputation and professionalism of interpreters or on a particular interpreting agency.

1.1.2 Interpreters are reliable and accountable for the quality of their work.

  • When appropriate, interpreters inform consumers at the start of an assignment about key interpreting ethics, including confidentiality, accuracy, and impartiality. This information promotes consumer trust and interpreter accountability for ethical behaviour.
  • Interpreters strive to perform their task to the best of their ability.
  • Interpreters accept responsibility for errors or limitations in interpreting performance, without blaming others.
  • Interpreters may advertise their services, providing the information is factual, relevant and neither misleading nor discreditable to the interpreting profession.

1.1.3 Interpreters show respect through their conduct, to maintain the dignity of clients and the interpreting profession.

  • Interpreters are punctual.
  • Interpreters dress and groom in a manner that is appropriate to the situation, and in an unobtrusive manner. For example, they avoid bright colours, revealing styles, distracting adornments, perfume or body odours that draw attention to the interpreter's physical presence.
  • Interpreters are polite.
  • Interpreters defer to their clients' communication choices as far as possible.
  • Interpreters observe the norms and protocols in a given context (such as where to sit or stand, forms of address).

1.1.4 Interpreters do not exercise power or influence over their clients through their actions within or outside interpreting assignments.

1.1.5 Interpreters undertake appropriate preparations for all assignments.

  • Interpreters prepare adequately prior to the assignment. Preparation may entail briefing with clients, reading available and relevant documents, consulting dictionaries and glossaries of technical terms in specialised fields, (for example, medical or legal), and/or seeking relevant background information from brochures, reference books, the internet, etc.
  • Interpreters treat materials and information provided for preparation purposes as confidential. (See also under 2. Confidentiality).
  • In situations where interpreters may not have had the opportunity to be adequately briefed or given enough time to prepare, or if there are safety/security issues, they communicate this to the responsible person or initiator who is participating in the session.

1.1.6 Interpreters complete assignments they have accepted, unless they are unable to do so for ethical reasons (for example, where they do not have the required competence or where there may be a conflict of interest).

  • If interpreters cannot attend an assignment, they inform the person or agency who has booked the assignment.
  • Except for urgent situations, interpreters do not delegate an assignment to another interpreter without the agreement of the parties concerned. Interpreters do not accept an assignment delegated by another interpreter when the parties involved have not been notified. In situations where an urgent replacement is required (for example, when an interpreter is sick), it may not be possible to seek the agreement of all parties, but the interpreter will endeavour to inform the parties as soon as practical.

1.1.7 In interpreting assignments, interpreters endeavour to secure a physical environment that enables as clear a communication as is achievable through reasonable effort in the given context.

  • Interpreters use any technology required for interpreting in the given context, including microphones, telephone, and video interpreting.
  • Interpreters make appropriate arrangements for maintaining confidentiality (for example, ensuring that briefing with the client takes place where they are not overlooked or overheard).
  • Interpreters take appropriate security measures in cases of physical risk.
  • Where possible, interpreters avoid lengthy stretches of interpreting without a break.


1.2.1 Interpreters follow this Code – as employees, as freelancers, or as supervisors or employers of other interpreters.

1.2.2 Interpreters who work through agencies support the agencies to maintain a consistent service profile.

  • Interpreters observe at all times the obligations arising from their contract with the agencies.
  • Interpreters identify themselves at assignments by the agency brand name, as required by agency protocols.
  • Direct requests for service arising during jobs booked through an interpreting agency are redirected back to the original booking agency.
  • Interpreters do not assume an exclusive working relationship with a particular client—the matching of client to interpreter is the responsibility of the interpreting service, taking into account client preference.

1.2.3 Agencies, employers or clients who stipulate this Code as a mandatory standard have appropriate procedures in place to support interpreters to maintain the Code.

1.2.4 Interpreters should decline gifts or favours from consumers that would create a sense of obligation or perceived influence.

1.2.5 Interpreters maintain constructive and respectful working relations with colleagues that further excellent professional practice.

  • Interpreters refrain from expressing opinions that bring the competence or integrity of colleagues into disrepute.
  • Interpreters work cooperatively with colleagues (particularly in team situations) to maximise each other's professional skills and effectiveness.
  • Interpreters resolve any disputes with interpreting colleagues in a cooperative, constructive and professional manner
  • Interpreters participate in the activities and goals of the wider interpreting profession.
  • Interpreters support fellow interpreters in their professional development.
  • Where interpreters have a well-founded concern that an interpreting colleague has breached this Code and caused harm to the profession or to others, and where this cannot be resolved between the colleagues, they may report the matter for deliberation and possible disciplinary action to SLIANZ, the employing party, or another relevant body.

2. Confidentiality

2.1 Interpreters are bound by strict rules of confidentiality.

  • When interpreters brief clients on their role, they will inform clients that everything interpreted will be kept confidential by the interpreter.
  • Communication in each assignment (including casual conversations with clients) remains confidential to that situation.
  • Interpreters ensure that any personal, identifying or sensitive materials related to the assignment are destroyed or left behind.
  • Interpreters do not share identifying details of an assignment with others (including friends, family, or colleagues). Apart from exceptions covered in other parts of this Code, all details of an assignment, including time, place, names or content are considered as confidential and potentially identifying.
  • For personal safety reasons, interpreters may inform someone where and when they are working (for example, if the assignment is after hours or at a distant location).

2.2 Where teamwork is required, the ethical obligation for confidentiality extends to all members of the team and/or agency.

  • It will often be necessary for one interpreter to brief another interpreter for an assignment that is shared. Interpreters confine themselves to sharing only those details that are sufficient to prepare their colleague for the assignment.
  • Interpreters do not pass on knowledge about a client between agencies or assignments relating to a client.

2.3 The duty of confidentiality does not apply where disclosure is required by law, or in specific circumstances of risk to life or security concerns .

  • In specific institutional settings where duty of care or security rules regulate the behaviour of all participants (such as in health care, educational, or high security settings) interpreters follow the relevant policies and procedures in addition to their interpreting code of ethics.
  • Should any potential conflict between the two codes arise, interpreters abide by the interpreting code in the first instance.
  • In some cases (for example, life threatening situations) they may alert, and/or seek further guidance from, the relevant authority.

2.4 When interpreters discuss interpreting experiences within the context of training or professional supervision, they avoid revealing details about the identity of consumers.

3. Competence

3.1 Interpreters only accept interpreting assignments that they can reasonably expect to perform competently.

  • Interpreters accept assignments using discretion with regard to the match between their skills and the likely demands of the situation, and decline those that they believe to be beyond their competence.
  • Interpreters familiarise themselves with the varied contexts, institutional structures and terminology of the areas in which they accept work.

3.2 Interpreters represent their credentials honestly.

3.3 Interpreters maintain transparency about their ability perform the work required.

  • Interpreters inform the parties of any impediment to a faithful interpretation, for example, when they are unable to understand a speaker, when an interpreting error has occurred, or when they encounter problems with competence that mean they are unable to continue with an assignment.
  • Interpreters attest to their qualifications and the accuracy of their interpreting and, when requested, explain their linguistic choices, but do not attest to whether participants have understood messages; this remains an issue for participants.

4. Accuracy

4.1 Interpreters provide accurate renditions of the source utterance or text.

  • The concept of accuracy is complex, and this code assumes that interpreters know the meaning of the concept and are able to provide accurate and complete renditions of the original message on the basis of the skills and understanding they have acquired through their training.

4.2 In order to ensure the same access to all that is said or signed by all parties involved in a meeting, interpreters relay everything that is communicated completely.

  • Interpreters aim to interpret everything without omitting, adding or changing the content and intent of the original message.
  • Interpreters aim to pass on everything, including side conversations, or information that might seem redundant, irrelevant, impolite or untrue. Discretion may need to be used in complex communication environments and multi-party conversations (for example in large meetings or classroom situations) in which it is not feasible to relay all incidental communication.
  • When briefing clients about their role, interpreters discuss with clients how the communication process will work, reminding them that everything will be interpreted without editing.

4.3 Interpreters correct their own interpreting errors

  • An interpreter who realises they have made a mistake corrects it promptly, informing parties that it is their own error. The interpreter does not fix perceived 'errors' of information spoken by other parties.

4.4 Interpreters manage the flow of communication where possible / appropriate, to enable accuracy

  • Interpreters may ask a speaker to slow down or pause to enable accurate interpretation.
  • Interpreters request a break if fatigue or stress is putting accuracy of interpreting at risk.

4.5 Interpreters ask for clarification if necessary to enable accurate and comprehensible interpretation.

  • Interpreters intervene promptly if a speaker's meaning is unclear or missed by the interpreter, stating politely that, "I, the interpreter, need clarification".
  • Interpreters use discretion regarding the situation and the consequences as to whether intervening for clarification is appropriate; for example, it would not usually be appropriate to request clarification during a formal speech or ceremony, or a judge's summing up for a jury.

4.6 Interpreters endeavour to maintain the emotions, tone, register and style of the speakers in their interpreting and do not soften or enhance the force of messages conveyed or language used.

  • Interpreters convey the intent of parties in a way that matches the style and tone of language that speakers are using. If it is not possible to replicate a formal or technical register in the other language, one option is to ask the speaker if they can re-express the message more plainly.
  • In specific contexts (such as in court or psychometric assessments) incoherence, hesitations and unclear statements are maintained in the interpretation.

5. Impartiality

5.1 Interpreters do not offer opinions or advice relating to the situation.

  • Exceptions to this might be when it seems necessary, in the interpreter's professional judgment, to alert parties to a cultural issue that is impeding the current communication, or when the immediate wellbeing of a participant would be at risk by failing to offer advice or information.
  • Interpreters keep the participants informed of any side comments made by any of the parties or of their attempts to engage the interpreter in a private or any other conversation
  • Interpreters do not give opinions or share undisclosed details about a situation that they attended in the capacity of interpreter, even if the interpreter's presence is public knowledge (for example, at a media appearance, conference, public meeting). Knowledge about that event belongs to the main participants rather than to the interpreter.

5.2 Interpreters disclose any potential conflict of interest in relation to an interpreting assignment, and withdraw from an assignment if objectivity is compromised.

  • Interpreters alert the agency or the other parties to any conflict of interest related to the assignment.
  • Interpreters disclose any business or vested interest that they may have in an assignment, beforehand or as soon as practicable.
  • Interpreters do not recommend to clients any business, agency, process, substance or material matters in which they have a vested, personal or financial interest, without fully disclosing this interest to the clients.
  • Interpreters consider potential conflicts of interest before accepting interpreting assignments for family members or close friends, and in situations where the interpreter has another role, interest, or bias.
  • Interpreters decline jobs where personal feelings or beliefs will make displaying and maintaining impartiality impossible.

5.3 Interpreters express the message faithfully and objectively.

  • Interpreters do not express personal feelings or opinions about the content of communication through words, tone of voice, facial expression or body language – while interpreting, or afterwards.
  • Interpreters are not responsible for the accuracy or acceptability of what clients say.

5.4 Interpreters establish physical and social neutrality

  • Interpreters avoid physical contact with either party, beyond conventional greetings initiated by them. Physical contact may be required in Deafblind interpreting.
  • Interpreters do not seek to elicit or share overly personal information in conversation with parties during an interpreting assignment.
  • Interpreters demonstrate courtesy and tact towards all parties equally.

6. Clarity of Role Boundaries

6.1 When an interpreter has other roles potentially relevant to the participants or the situation, (for example, an interpreter who is also qualified as a legal or a medical professional), these roles are set aside in relation to the interpreting assignment.

  • Where interpreters as a result of specific employment arrangements have roles in addition to that of interpreting, they clearly delineate between the two roles, and do not switch roles unannounced.

6.2 Interpreters encourage the people with whom they work or are engaged by to familiarise themselves with the role of the interpreter.

6.3 Interpreters respect the professional boundaries of other participants involved in an assignment.

6.4 Interpreters understand, and help their clients understand, the difference between professional and personal interactions.

  • Interpreters assume responsibility for establishing and maintaining appropriate boundaries between themselves and the other participants in the communicative interaction.

6.5 If interpreters are approached by separate parties to the same legal assignment, the 
interpreter shall notify all parties and give the first party an opportunity to claim exclusive 
right to the requested interpreting service.

7. Professional Development

7.1 Interpreters enhance their skills and knowledge through continuing education and professional development throughout their professional careers.

  • Interpreters show commitment to professional competence by holding formal qualification, by keeping their working languages highly proficient, by attending professional development and training opportunities, and by keeping abreast of current best practice and literature in the field.
  • Interpreters adhere to the requirements for continued professional development set by SLIANZ.


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