General Sir Nick Carter insisted it was not an attempt to create a “politically correct brigade” but recognised that the military must not put up with unacceptable behaviour.
The forces have previously been criticised for discrimination and prejudice and General Carter said that the code would tackle bullying and sexual harassment, among other behavioural issues, and promote tolerance.
General Carter, who has been the Chief of the General Staff for a year, said: “I’m not arguing for political correctness. What I’m arguing for is to live by our values and standards and to accept everyone in an inclusive way.
“I think there is a risk we will lose sight of our ultimate goal, which is to close with and kill the Queen’s enemies, and we have to have that at the forefront of our mind, but equally we cannot accept unacceptable behaviour.”
Referring to the low numbers of black, Asian and minority ethnic soldiers, General Carter said he is committed to recruiting more.
He added: “We are on a journey here and I’m making a commitment personally as the head of this institution to try and change that. Give me time – the effort is there and we are going to do something about it.”
General Carter has previously pledged to make the army a more inclusive employer, specifically increasing the numbers of Muslim soldiers.
The code of conduct comes after concerns were raised from a military watchdog last year that the complaints system is failing. Service Complaints Commissioner (SCC) Susan Atkins cited a rise in reported cases of bullying, harassment and discrimination in the army in 2013, reversing a downward trend in recent years, a move which she said posed a “serious challenge” for top brass.
None of the goals set by the SCC for the armed forces to achieve by the end of 2013 were met, said Dr Atkins, who raised particular concern about delays in resolving complaints from personnel.
The report found that the army saw a 12 per cent increase in complaints during that 12-month period, but only 25 per cent were resolved within a 24-week target.
Military charities said the new code of conduct would be a positive move for the armed forces.
Wendy Searle, head of communications for ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, said: “We welcome the head of the army’s new code of conduct and the overall aim to make the army more inclusive.
“The army is moving with the times, and to encourage tolerance and diversity is to reflect society as a whole.”