Organisational policies and procedures – why you should review yours regularly.
One of the first things that we do for new clients is draft or review their existing workplace policies and procedures.
Policies and procedures, whilst containing legal and best practice requirements, should also reflect the company’s vision and values so that these can run through every aspect of the business. These are living documents that need to adapt as the company changes and grows. The core elements of the policies will likely remain the same; it’s the details of how to make the policy happen which sometimes needs to flex due to changes in industry and/or the organisation.
Our HR services consultants work with our clients to determine which policies and procedures will keep the company running smoothly, and when things change and updates are required, we are able to amend these to ensure ongoing compliance.
Regular policy review and revision are an important part of the policy management plan, it’s often done behind the scenes and we schedule these for our clients to ensure that reviews are performed in a timely manner. This process doesn’t have to be done annually (generally this happens every one to three years), but sometimes changes are required due to updates in employment law and government guidelines – furlough being a prime example – which means it is essential to review and adapt your policies and ensure that any revisions are communicated effectively throughout your business.
Why should organisational policies and procedure be reviewed?
· Outdated policies can put your company at risk as they may not be compliant with new laws and regulations
· Technologies may change which can result in inconsistent practices
Do you have the right number of policies?
There is a suite of policies that we recommend all our clients should have, these include:
· Disciplinary Policy and Procedure
· Grievance Procedure
· Capability Procedure
· Absence Management Policy and Procedure
· Equality Opportunity and Diversity Policy
· Bullying and Harassment Policy
· Flexible Working Policy
· Family Friendly Policy and Procedure
· Anti-bribery Policy
· Whistleblowing Policy
· GDPR Suite of Policies and Procedures
There is no set number of policies that a company should have in place and there are many more policies which can be written and used, but the key is to make sure that the employees are aware of your organisation’s stance and expectation around specific issues and processes to ensure that they understand and comply with these.
How can your policies and procedures be improved?
Look to see whether the policy is easy to understand and get feedback and ideas on how they can be improved. Will a flow chart alongside a policy give a greater understanding? Check that the policies are relevant – do they align with current organisational structures and how the company actually operates?
Training line managers
It is often line managers (with the help of HR of course!) who are responsible for ensuring that policies and procedures are followed, so make sure that the line managers are trained in how to carry out the relevant procedures and what their role is in the process. Remember, if significant changes are made or a new policy has to be drafted, further training will need to be done.
Karen Poulson, our HR Advisor has done some research into case law and why updating policies regularly can keep your company out of an employment tribunal. Here’s what she has to say:
‘I was recently reading an article in People Management magazine, our trusted HR journal, on this topic. The writers referenced a case originally dismissed by an Employment Tribunal ‘For Stater v Centre for Global Development (CGD)’ and recommended taking steps to review relevant policies whilst awaiting the outcome of the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Well, that has turned out to be very sound advice as the EAT overruled the outcome and upheld the claimant’s case last week.
Whilst the intricate detail of the case itself is of interest to us HR professionals, I shall keep it short and sweet here. The claimant basically claimed that her contract was not renewed because she had made comments in tweets expressing her beliefs about sex and gender and debating the proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. Whilst the Tribunal dismissed her claim, stating that her “views on biological sex being immutable were ‘absolutist’ and was not a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act 2010”. The Appeal Tribunal disagreed; we shall see how this impacts on claims made under the Equality Act in good time.
Unfortunately for the employer, due to the nature of the tweets, the case attracted far-reaching notoriety, including comments by the author, JK Rowling. This, in turn, created a media storm, with the company receiving unwelcome attention. So, for employers, it has highlighted the need to review – or urgently put in place – a number of key employment-related policies if you want to keep out of the wrong kind of limelight!’
A number of recent employment tribunal cases have shown, that even where employees are using their own personal social media accounts, their views and behaviour online, can have a damaging effect on the organisation they work for by causing adverse publicity. A robust social media policy is therefore key, stating your view on posting content online and making it clear what the consequences of breaching the policy are, regardless of whether they are personal opinions.
The press coverage following the Forstater case showed that people had very strongly held beliefs on both sides. Regardless of the reason, or the subject, these types of difference in opinion can lead to claims of bullying, harassment or discrimination and expose employers to a number of issues. It is, therefore, crucial to review Anti-bullying and Harassment policies ensuring they clearly define what behaviour will and will not be tolerated. Grievance and Whistle-blowing policies should also clearly illustrate how to raise an issue and the required process to follow. Equal opportunities policies should be far-reaching to encourage a culture of diversity and inclusion.
Many employers have already reviewed their workplace cultures and values in response to developments such as the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. Providing meaningful training to employees may help to create more understanding and awareness, leading to a more inclusive and diverse workplace. A well-written policy that gathers dust on the virtual shelf is pointless; training can bring policies to life and provides opportunities to model appropriate behaviour which becomes part of daily practice.
Whilst the policies mentioned above are pertinent in light of the EAT ruling, we are only ever one step away from a surprising verdict which sets precedent within the employment law sphere. It is therefore important to review policies and procedures for not only that reason, but to ensure that they are still relevant to your current practices and company values.
At PSHR, we recommend reviewing all policies and procedures regularly, annually if possible, and certainly in the wake of a high profile and likely impactful tribunal ruling.
Contact us to arrange a prompt review of your workplace policies and procedures 01473 653000.