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Changing workplace policies and procedures

Policy review exercises don’t often appear at the top of an HR professional’s list of favourite tasks, but HR policies and procedures are important.

Policy review exercises don’t often appear at the top of an HR professional’s list of favourite tasks but HR policies and procedures are an important part of workforce management and need to be maintained and kept up to date.

Making changes to policies is not always easy though. Particular difficulties arise when there is uncertainty about what may or may not be contractual. It is not uncommon within larger, complex employer organisations, to see additions and amendments to policies and procedures over a number of years, creating a multi-layered framework that is difficult to navigate. This can result in considerable confusion if an employment claim is made.

If you are embarking on a policy review exercise, or are seeking to tighten up and rationalise your organisation’s suite of policies and procedures, below are our top tips to restoring and maintaining clarity.

Our top tips on managing changes to workplace policies and procedures

1. Aim to identify what is or is not contractual

Making certain provisions contractual can be a good thing, creating obligations and providing assurances for employees. However, you will seldom want to make management processes contractual.

2. Ensure a regular review of handbook terms/policies and procedures

A culture of ongoing review and change is good. It maintains relevance and helps to ensure the retention and passing on of knowledge about what policies and procures there are and what they say.

3. The role of unions

Where there are recognition arrangements with unions then build that ongoing review process (of policies relevant to the recognition arrangements) into the relationship so that parties expect it regularly.

4. Agree ownership

Be clear about who takes ownership of the maintenance of policies, meaning either an individual or team (depending on the size of the organisation). Ensure continuity of knowledge and responsibility.

These steps seem a good idea in principle but are often difficult in practice. The prospect of analysing a set of complex and disparate policies which have come into being over many years is a daunting one. But it may need to be moved to the top of an HR agenda particularly within organisations where there is a need for change.

If you are planning to make changes to workplace policies and procedures in your organisation we would be happy to advise you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with our employment law solicitors.