Can you demonstrate that your policies are being read and understood?

Sarah Catterall

A board will know how qualitative its policies are through their internal review and ratification process, however if the policies are not reaching the people to which they apply or cannot be found when needed, it doesn’t matter how informative or effective they are.

The legal ramifications of poor policy management

Experience has shown that many criminal prosecutions every year are not pursued because an organisation cannot prove that their policies had been read by their employees. When undertaking criminal investigations it is necessary to place the onus of knowledge on the person being prosecuted (ie that they knew what they were doing was wrong).

Examples include where a member of staff had been found to have claimed thousands of pounds of expenses, to which they are not entitled, causing a significant financial loss to the company. Due to poor policy processes the organisation could not prove that the member of staff had knowingly committed an offence because they were unable to demonstrate that the member of staff was aware of the company’s expenses policy.

The implications of the bribery act

With the introduction of the Bribery Act, organisations are being required to demonstrate compliance by ensuring their staff and representatives are fully aware of the requirement to adhere to the act. If an organisation does not provide adequate training and policies around this they themselves could be prosecuted for ‘negligently failing to prevent a bribe’.

How can organisations protect themselves?

One way in which organisations can protect themselves is to ensure that their policies and procedures are made easily accessible to staff by way of a central policy base. Such a system can advise staff and managers when a policy needs to be read, and asks questions to confirm their understanding of it prior to acceptance. These acceptances can be tracked, thereby providing evidence of compliance to external bodies. Similarly, to ensure compliance with the Bribery Act, organisations need to have a robust register of interests and gifts and hospitality processes in place in order to highlight any potential conflicts that may arise.

Policy management is an increasingly important aspect of organisational compliance, especially with the greater legislative scrutiny being placed upon them. Therefore good policy processes and systems should form the bedrock of any good governance strategy.

Act today; shape tomorrow.

For more information around how organisations can better manage their policies and processes please contact Matthew Humphrey or visit: