When should my firm or organisation draft policy?

Jodie Flowerday, a Policy Advisor working in the New Zealand tertiary sector, discusses situations where policy documents are necessary. 

Jodie Flowerday

My experience with policy documents over the past seven years has been a mixed bag; from contractual to operational to governance, I have seen how policy can have a positive impact on a business by providing a universal and consistent understanding of the way things need to be done.

Policies also can provide insight on the attitudes and values of an organisation which are areas that may be questioned by prospective clients or employees. Therefore, it pays to be mindful about which topics or areas you don’t have policy on.

The need for policy can arise from a number of sources such as legislation, regulation, industry best practice, by direction of the executive or due to operational requirements.

One of the key questions to ask before putting pen to paper, is: When is a policy document needed? The following questions are a good place to start when you may be looking to develop a new policy or when reviewing an existing policy you may already have:

  • Is a compliance statement required due to legislative, regulatory requirements, or best practice relevant to the organisation? For example, tertiary institutions are subject to the Education Act 1989 which has specific provisions relating to academic freedom. It is common to see a policy on this among the various tertiary institution repositories reaffirming the Act and providing direction on when academic freedom can be exercised.
  • Are there penalties imposed or consequences (legal or otherwise) of non-compliance with the above? If so, are these significant enough to put measures in place to avoid them? An example is the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 which has specific and quite severe penalties if a breach of the Act is determined as well having the potential to cause reputational harm.
  • Does the statement apply across all areas or significant areas of the organisation as a whole? The above examples have wide application and cross significant areas and groups within tertiary institutions.

The common practice in the tertiary sector is to have a policy repository which is accessible to the public, however some policy documents may be contained on intranet sites and on other platforms only accessible to employees. What documents are contained in repositories (both publicly and privately accessible) vary depending on the focus of the particular institution and may also be influenced by the level of risk the institution sees in a particular activity. There are some documents however, which consistently feature among the different institutions such as those dealing with the Official Information Act and Privacy Act for example.

For those interested in developing policy repositories of their own I would recommend looking at the New Zealand tertiary sector for inspiration. Your own industry will have its own unique environment which will influence what policy is needed on which topic or area, so looking to see what type of policies are accessible from other similar organisations within your industry is also a worthwhile exercise.

Jodie Flowerday has been working in various roles since 2011. She currently works in the tertiary education sector in the role of Senior Policy Advisor for a tertiary education institution. Contact Jodie at Jodie.beker@gmail.com or connect via LinkedIn