How to perfect your policies with the Policy Bank

Posted on 22 Oct 2021

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, Our Community

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It’s no surprise that the Institute of Community Directors’ Policy Bank is one of its most visited web pages.

Every one of Australia’s 600,000 not-for-profits needs policies to function effectively, and the 70-plus policy templates in the ICDA Policy Bank are free.

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Lindy Richardson

But have you got all the policies your organisation needs?

Fortunately, our legal partners Maddocks have many of the answers.

In a recent webinar Maddocks partner Lindy Richardson joined senior associate (employment, safety and people) Tamsin Webster and special counsel (commercial) Paul Ellis to examine some of the key considerations involved in keeping policies up to date.

Ms Richardson said policies “communicate an organisation’s practices, values and expectations”. Whether legally required, or enacted to protect and direct an organisation, good policies create “clarity and direction, and will save organisations time and effort spent in confusion and disputes about matters that are often mundane”.

She said having policies that were consistently interpreted and applied also “reduces the likelihood of such matters escalating to become legal disputes.”

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Protecting staff is a priority for organisations adopting any policies.

Key policies you need: employment

According to our legal experts, employment-related policies that organisations are most likely to need include:

  • a child safety policy
  • a covid-safe plan
  • a workplace health and safety policy
  • sexual harassment and anti-discrimination policies

The firm also recommends the following policies:

  • code of conduct
  • working from home policy
  • social media policy
  • resolution of issues or complaints policy
  • pandemic policy
  • discretionary benefits policy.

Depending on needs, Maddocks suggests organisations might also consider policies on:

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Organisations need to tailor policies to suit their subsector and activities.

Key policies you need: commercial

Maddocks advise that, depending on your commercial activities and jurisdictions (which may relate to government contracts, business structure, or turnover) you may be required by law to have policies covering:

  • privacy
  • whistleblowing
  • conflict of interest
  • procurement.

Maddocks also recommends organisations involved in commercial activities have:

  • financial control policies
  • board recruitment policies
  • policies related to the environment, climate change and energy use
  • diversity and reconciliation policies.

Key considerations for any policies

Every organisation is different, comes under different rules and regulations, and operates in a different environment. That is why Maddocks suggests any policy should be:

  • fit for purpose for your organisation
  • flexible (i.e. not unachievable or unnecessarily prescriptive)
  • compliant with the law
  • well communicated to staff, with proper training in its use
  • reviewed as necessary (perhaps every two years, or upon significant law reforms).

Ms Richardson said the Institute of Community Directors policy templates in the Policy Bank were a “great starting point”, but that each should be tailored for the needs of each organisation.

Ms Richardson said an organisation’s suite of policies must suit that organisation, but “things can change dynamically, and you need to be on top of those obligations”.

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