Defining policy and procedures
As illustrated in the graphic below, organisational policies and procedures are concerned with laws at the local or organisational level. Policies and procedures are not law: however, they often have a basis in law.
For example, the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 (Qld) states that employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of employees and visitors. To this end an organisation might develop a critical incidents policy which states a commitment to putting in place strategies, systems and processes to manage critical incidents such as bomb threats, security breaches and the like. The policy defines critical incidents and outlines key roles and responsibilities in managing such incidents. A range of more detailed procedures and guidelines are then prepared to ensure staff know how to respond in the event of a critical incident.
Figure 9: The relationship between law and policy
Policies are statements of principle that guide decision-making and service delivery. In the community and disability services sector, policies are often based on legislation, e.g. Commonwealth or state privacy legislation.
- To ensure that the same organisational values, goals and objectives are implemented across the organisation, for example, Departmental Codes of Conduct
- To ensure that best practice in the organisation is understood and implemented, for example, confidentiality
- To enable shared communication, for example, common understanding of particular terms or issues
- To ensure consistency of approach, for example, work being performed to the same quality over a period of time, or across a number of people
- To co-ordinate the provision of services, for example, avoiding the duplication of services across departments or streamlining the provision of a service where people from various departments are involved in its provision
- To address legal issues, or potential legal issues, associated with some aspect of the organisation or its operations
Procedures are more detailed instructions about how policies should be carried out by employees. They provide a link between the organisation's plans and strategies and day-to-day operations. Protocols are similar to procedures but deal specifically with the agreed ways in which organisations interact on a specific matter.
Procedures may be:
- mandatory (i.e. must always be followed) or
- discretionary (i.e. to be followed if required).
What policy and procedures cover
Among many other things, policies and procedures address:
- standards of workplace behaviour
- code of conduct
- workplace health and safety
- workplace harassment
- equal employment opportunity
- first aid
- infection control
- grievance procedure
- emergency procedures
- client service delivery
- eligibility criteria
- privacy and confidentiality.
This sample table of contents provides an idea of the breadth of policies and procedures that might apply to a human services organisation.
Logbook Activity - Policy and procedure manual contents