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Policies help establish accountability at every level


Clearly-drafted policies and procedures have positive effects on workers and the business, writes Charles Watson.

Workplace policies should be viewed as corporate statements that provide clarity around expected standards of the organisation and the workers.

Depending upon the particular subject of the policy, it usually consists of a statement of purpose and may include broad guidelines or procedures on the action to be taken to achieve that purpose.

Charles Watson

Well-drafted and implemented workplace policies bring considerable benefit to a company.

Failure to have appropriate policies and procedures in the workplace or failure to appropriately implement and follow them can be more harmful than not having them at all.

Developing policies

Spending time planning the subject, type, structure, content and implementation of workplace policies assists in them having the biggest impact. Well-drafted policies and procedures need to comply with relevant legislation and demonstrate the business is operating efficiently.

Policies should be drafted to provide a framework for business stability and consistency in decision-making and operational procedure. This is particularly relevant for businesses in a challenging and compliance heavy industry such as aged care.

Board level and senior management should be involved in forming policies. They are expected to walk the talk and if management doesn’t buy in, then workers won’t take policies seriously. Additionally, consulting with workers when forming policies can result in even greater buy-in from those the policies have a daily effect on, particularly in the area of workplace health and safety.

Given the range of learning and literacy issues within a workforce, we suggest that policies be comprehensive, but drafted in simple and jargon-free terms. Some companies animate their policies on their company intranet or include illustrations to make it easier to understanding them.

Ensure your organisation’s employment contracts expressly state that its policies do not form part of the employee’s contract of employment. Otherwise you may not be able to revise the policies without renegotiating the employment contract.

Implementing policies

The best idea for implementing policies into workplace culture is to ensure each new worker reviews, considers and acknowledges their understanding of policies. Being able to evidence a worker’s signed acceptance of policies also assists if an employer needs to rely on those policies for disciplining an employee for a related reason.

Having workers periodically revisit policies is also important. Doing so keeps policy expectations front and centre and helps to maintain high standards of behaviour in the workplace.

Another important factor of policy implementation is to ensure workplace policies are current. A yearly review will keep legislative references current and a scheduled biannual review to determine the ongoing functionality, currency and effect of the policies is also recommended.

Which policies?

The list of potential areas is endless, however a few core subjects include:

  • Workplace health and safety and related procedures. Create a separate policy for any employee working from home.
  • Worker conduct, bullying, discrimination, harassment and related grievance procedures.
  • Drug and alcohol policies.
  • All things internet related, plus the use of personal mobile devices in the workplace.

Benefits to the business

Clearly-drafted policies and procedures have positive effects on workers and the business. They set responsibilities, boundaries and expectations for workers and provide the organisation’s vision and values for every worker to get behind. In so doing they establish accountability and help to push them to every level of the business.

They also help to minimise risks and exposure if an incident occurs. If a business seeks to rely on workplace policies and procedures should a legal action arise, courts and tribunals take a negative view of workplace policies that are left on the shelf to gather dust. It is viewed as if the company just didn’t care about the issue that much.

Some say workplace policies are limiting, but that is not the case. They provide the basis for ongoing compliance, foster growth and help build a business’ reputation for its workers and the community generally.

Charles Watson is general manager of human resources at Workforce Guardian, a human resources and employment relations service for employers.



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