Policy Development

Policy Development is the process of developing procedures that set out how staff and volunteers should behave and what responsibility the organisation has towards the people they employ. It is useful to include in your business plan what policies you will need to implement, to show you understand what is required.

Policy development needs to happen for when staff and volunteers start to work for your organisation. Policies are needed primarily for two reasons:

  1. For legal reasons. Organisations have many statutory obligations to fulfil. Failure to do so opens up the possibility of legal action, eg employment tribunals.
  2. To ensure clarity. Staff should have guidelines to refer to that direct their behaviour in certain situations. This means the same procedure is followed in each case.

There is a wide range of policies needed by an organisation. This list is a good place to start but is not exhaustive:

  • Sickness and Absence
  • Maternity
  • Paternity
  • Annual Leave
  • Dependents Leave
  • Special Leave
  • Equal Opportunity
  • Capability
  • Recruitment and Selection
  • Grievance
  • Disciplinary
  • Bullying and Harassment
  • E-mail and Internet
  • Telephone

Some of these policies will also be included in employee contracts (annual leave, maternity, paternity, sickness etc.)

Several policies follow a standard format. The quickest and cheapest way to get policies of this nature is via the internet. ACAS have guidance on all of these policies.

An alternative is to talk to other organisations that are more developed. Use their policies as a template and tweak to meet your needs. In addition to this it is advisable that you seek advice either from your legal team or a specialised Human Resources (HR) consultancy. Ask other organisations for recommendations. A HR consultancy may seem like an unnecessary cost at an early stage. However, their services can prove vital. If you are a small organisation you are unlikely to have the resources to have a dedicated HR person, a consultancy which specialises in employment law is one alternative. They can be very helpful at resolving any staffing issues that occur at a time that is stressful for the organisation and management team. Be careful to choose a company you feel comfortable with. A good working relationship is crucial, as they will be taking on a position of trust.

The best time to put policies in place is when you first start employing staff or using volunteers. With every extra person employed the risks of conflict and / or issues grows.

Several policies have statutory minimums (maternity, sickness, annual leave). While putting policies together make decisions about whether to stick to these minimums or set a higher level. For example many organisations have a more generous maternity policy than the statutory obligations, giving mothers more than six weeks on full-pay. Be careful and always consider affordability. Take account of all potential consequences of the policy you set. Small organisations should be wary of offering generous benefits, as they are vulnerable if several employees take leave at once.

Policies are not just an exercise in protecting your company. They will help employees understand what is expected of them and what they should expect from the organisation. Make sure all policies are included in an induction pack that is given to all employees when they first start. If policies are added or changed then make sure staff are informed. This can be done via notice boards or by email / intranet. Doing this ensures that staff are aware of all the policies.

An additional policy that you may want to develop is a Mission Statement. This does not fit into the traditional pattern. It is not needed for legal reasons and does not set out specific guidance. A Mission Statement sets out the general aims and aspirations of the company and how it intends to achieve them. There is a healthy debate about the usefulness of a Mission Statement. Think about whether a Mission Statement is something you feel would benefit your organisation. If you decide to go ahead make sure you consult widely, including all board and staff members in the discussions.

What to avoid

Avoid vague or general language that may cause confusion and ambiguity. Policies have to be clear and precise and leave no room for misinterpretation. Be concise and only use as many words as is needed to convey your message.