By Sanette Viljoen
With the Covid-19 pandemic and the national lockdown, everyone’s normal way of life as well as office life have changed. Companies now have to adapt to a new “normal”. This adaptation is accompanied by with the necessity to bring about change in the company’s cultures, processes and probably the company’s policy. This article endeavours to assist companies in the changing of their policy in order for them to protect and support their employees.
In the first instance it is important to understand what a policy is. A policy can be defined as guidelines developed by the owner/directors/management of a company. These guidelines offer a framework within which the daily operations of the company must take place. In this way a company with a clear and unambiguous policy defines its own culture.
The first step in the development of an internal policy is to identify the need for a policy. To do so, a company has to judge its activities and responsibilities and in this way they can determine how a policy can maximise the company’s productivity and combat certain challenges. A company’s needs can change due to a change in circumstances or in expectation thereof. The circumstances that a company considers during the developing of a policy could be an internal situation that was identified, or an external factor such as a pandemic.
The second step in the development of a policy is to appoint someone to write the policy. This person could be external or internal. It is important for the person to realise the seriousness of the matter and that clear timelines be given for the development of the policy.
The third step is to collect as much information as possible about the specific aspect which the policy intends to manage, for example the Covid-19 pandemic. This step is extremely important to ensure that the compiled policy does not age or is forbidden by any existing legislation. To do so, a company must identify the laws that apply to the specific policy and see to it that the policy complies with these laws. As legislation and regulations are constantly being amended, a company must take care to always use updated sources when compiling a policy.
The fourth step in this process it to compile the policy. This step must be applied meticulously to ensure that the policy not only complies with the applicable legislation identified in step three, but also that the policy is relevant to the purpose for which it is being compiled, in this case the Covid-19 pandemic. The wording of the policy must be as clear and as unambiguous as reasonably possible, without it being filled with words and expressions that focus specifically on one sector. This ensures that the policy remains accessible for different people, whether it be a typist or a lawyer.
The fifth step is to discuss the policy with the employees of the company. If the employees are given the opportunity to consider and discuss the possible implications of the policy, it will ensure that the policy will function more effectively. It will also ensure that the policy does not deviate unnecessarily from the established methods of the company and also does not encroach upon certain employees’ religions or cultures.
The sixth step is to finally approve the policy. This can only happen if the consideration and discussion in step five went smoothly and if no person’s rights were infringed.
The seventh step is the implementation of the policy. To ensure that it is implemented successfully, there has to be continuous communication with the company’s employees. They must know at all times what is being expected of them. It may be necessary to train the employees in the conduct expected by the policy and the consequences of non-compliance. Training can for example entail the sanitation at the entrance to the building, sanitation of the building, sanitation of clients, acceptable social distancing, wearing a mask etc.
The eighth step is to monitor and revise the policy. This step must be a continuous process and implemented regularly to ensure that the policy does not fall into disuse or becomes irrelevant for the company. This entails the evaluation of the relevance of the policy for the employees, the judgement of how effectively the policy is being applied, and to determine if the policy still meets the prevailing legal regulations.
A proper policy can be worth its weight in gold to any legal firm during this pandemic. The policy protects your employees’ rights and ensures that they can return to work with peace of mind. The policy can also touch on specific aspects regarding specific persons/cases within the firm, for example certain employees’ cultures and religions. In this way the rights of everyone are protected and the firm can survive during this difficult period.
Adapt to the ‘New Normal’ by revising the firm’s policy and ensuring its applicability and legal compliance!