I have a confession. On Shrove Tuesday I shall be making my pancakes from a recipe. I’d much rather rely on experience and natural intuition, but pancakes generally happen once a year in our house and the consequences of getting it wrong (grumpy children and ridicule) are best avoided. I know that a few rules will keep me on track.
For some employers, strict rules and written procedures can get a bad press, being viewed as the heavy handed domain of the corporate world. However, I’ve had the pleasure to work with some relatively new businesses recently who have taken a different approach. Born out of a passion to do something different, away from the corporate world, these businesses have one thing in common. They have all described wanting to create a relaxed, fun, working environment, to foster the individuality of their staff and to be a nice employer. Alongside that, they have appreciated that the employment relationship needs some underlying rules and procedures to achieve best results.
Certain documentation is a legal requirement, whether you have 500 employees or 1. Employers must provide a written statement of terms and conditions within 2 months of an employee starting, and, as a minimum, have a disciplinary and grievance procedure in place. Putting the legal requirement to one side though, there are other practical reasons for having clear documentation in place:
- By having clear disciplinary rules, tailored to your business, you are able to avoid any misunderstandings about the sort of conduct which is and is not acceptable. Whilst you might hope that some things are obvious, experience tells me that you might be surprised. Written disciplinary rules are a quick and painless way of making things clear from the start;
- If things do go wrong, disciplinary rules will make it easier to give a disciplinary sanction or dismiss without challenge along the lines of “I thought it would be fine” or “I didn’t realise it wasn’t allowed”. Being able to point to a clear, written rule which the employee has been made aware of, makes things more straight forward;
- Disciplinary and capability procedures help you address concerns in a fair and consistent way, reducing the risk of discrimination claims or grievances and reducing the risk of unfair dismissal claims;
- A detailed equality policy is invaluable in reminding everyone what sort of action could amount to unlawful discrimination, whether it be towards another employee, a customer or other third party, and that such action will not be tolerated, again reducing the likelihood of discrimination occurring and improving your chance of defending a claim in the Tribunal;
- By having policies which are relevant and useful to your business, you can help keep things on track and reduce the likelihood of problems arising. For example, for a modern business with a social media presence or an employer whose staff are naturally glued to their own social media platforms, a social media policy can help you maintain control over postings and ensure that staff keep personal postings for non-working time.
- Being able to provide new employees with your written procedures, rules and policies will actually give them confidence in you as an employer and in your business as a good place to work.
So rather than signalling the end of the fun, non-corporate workplace that some businesses strive to achieve, savvy employers appreciate that getting a clear set of rules, policies and procedures in place will actually help develop the happy and committed team they want. More than that, it will help them be the relaxed and fair employer they set out to be.
Now roll on Shrove Tuesday. One pancake or ten?