07 Mar 2018

Developing And Implementing Policies And Procedures In The Workplace

Ingmar Taylor SC

1. This paper addresses three key issues:

a. the need for workplace policies and/or procedures by reference to how (if at all) liability is created by statute, case law, or under contract;

b. the proper content of policies and/or procedures and the extent to which they are informed by the nature of the business;

c. how to make sure the walk fits the talk, including what happens when the walk is different from the talk and some discussion about the function of investigations;

By reference to the three main subject areas requiring policies in the workplace, being:

d. Work health and safety;

e. Discrimination; and

f. General employment matters, such as bullying and domestic violence.

2. We address each of these below.


3. There is a difference between the two terms ‘policy’ and ‘procedure’.

4. A policy is:

Noun (plural policies)

  1. a definite course of action adopted as expedient or from other considerations: a business policy.
  2. a course or line of action adopted and pursued by a government, ruler, political party, or the like: the foreign policy of a country.
  3. action or procedure conforming to, or considered with reference to, prudence or expediency: it was good policy to consent.
  4. prudence, practical wisdom, or expediency.
  5. sagacity; shrewdness.
  6. rare government; polity[1].

5. A procedure is:


  1. the act or manner of proceeding in any action or process; conduct.
  2. a particular course or mode of action.
  3. mode of conducting legal, parliamentary, or other business, especially litigation and judicial proceedings.
  4. Also, medical procedure. a surgical operation or other medical technique performed on part of the body for a diagnostic or therapeutic purpose. [2]

6. Certainly, there has been some merging in the modern use of the word ‘policy’ to mean something closer to ‘procedure’, but there is a difference between the two that is important to keep in mind in the context of the three main subject areas. In general, policies are broader and more general than procedures, whereas procedures are usually more precise. Policies tend to be broad statements of intention (e.g. to provide procedural fairness), whereas procedures can tend to be concrete and prescriptive (e.g. who will do what and in what timeframe). The latter is particularly useful for dealing with situations where prescription is key to ensuring compliance with statutory obligations (e.g. the use of Material Data Safety Sheets in the context of work health and safety legislation).

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