Why You Need to Write Down Those Unwritten Policies | The Importance of Policy Development

by | Feb 17, 2010 | Blog, HR Policies

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or info@integrityhr.com

Today marks the start of a two part blog series full of information that has saved countless companies an extraordinary amount of time, money, and legal hassle. This series is all about those “unwritten policies” that are important and should be documented, but no one ever takes the time to write them down.  Part 1 of “The Importance of Policy Development” starts now.

As you know, we at Integrity HR are HR consultants.  This means that we come into your business, do an assessment, perhaps a full compliance audit, and make recommendations that will reduce your risk of liability, make your organization more productive, and generally make your life easier and your workplace a more pleasant place to be.  But don’t take our word for it.

As we work with more and more organizations on their policy development, we are neither naïve, nor are we inflexible.  We understand that some things in your organization are the way they are because, well, that’s “just the way they are”.    Most often this comes into play when we are assessing your employee handbook and reviewing the policies within.  Policies may be unclear, or nonexistent, and you explain that you “prefer to be flexible” or would “just rather not go there”.  This is usually accompanied with a wink and a nod, or a dismissive wave of hand, or occasionally a sheepish shrug.  We get that.

However, understand that when it comes time to defend this unofficial policy in court (happens more often than you think), judges don’t take too kindly to winks and nods or dismissive waves, and they don’t carry much sympathy for sheepish shrugs.  This is because they understand that the reason employers don’t perform policy development is because they truly don’t want to follow one, and the reasons that they don’t want to follow one usually don’t jive with terms such as “fair and just and equitable”.

Management often likes to maintain “flexibility”, but often this flexibility is just a veiled attempt to be able to maintain two different policies at the same time, or at attempt to avoid having to take a difficult action in some matter.

Other managers default to “employment at will” as evidence that they don’t need policies, because they can terminate for no reason and don’t need to provide policy to back it up.  Not only is there a lot more to it than that (see our three part employment at will blog series starting here), but not all policies concern issues that lead to termination.  There are a number of things that need to be communicated to your employees, and they need to be communicated well.  Also, you can forget about fighting unemployment insurance benefits if you can not provide a clear written policy to show that an employee was aware of an infraction that would lead to termination.

We’ll discuss these policies and their development in more detail on Friday.  Be sure to come back and read that post.  It may help to keep you out of the courtroom.

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