When it comes to employment law, organisations have policies and procedures in place for numerous reasons, reasons which include transparency, consistency, fairness and clarity. Accordingly, when an Organisation has a policy or policies in place why are these not always adhered to?
Motives For Not Following Policies
There are multiple motives to compel an Employer not to follow their policies and procedures, for example to reward an Employee by paying for a period of leave that the policy states will not be paid, or turning a blind eye to inappropriate or unacceptable behaviour because the Employee is valued and good at their job.
However, consideration should be given when an Organisation is deciding against implementing their policies, as precedence is set in every case where the Organisation does not adhere to its own procedure. Should an Employee be treated differently to others, either favourably or unfavourably, there may be repercussions for this, which possibly could lead to issues in the Organisation in the future.
There have been numerous cases where Organisations have not followed procedures and as a result end up in the Employment Appeals Tribunal or other Employee redress forum paying out an award simply due to the fact that they didn’t follow their own internal / fair or indeed any procedures.
Even in a dismissal case, where an Employer is entirely justified in making the decision to dismiss, can conclude with an order for an award in the Employee’s favour in a situation where procedures were not adhered to, which is not an ideal scenario for any Organisation to find themselves in, at any time.
Take for example, the case where an Employee threw a stapler at her Manager and was awarded €25,000 for unfair dismissal as the Organisation had not followed acceptable procedures. This award did take into consideration that the Employee had contributed to her dismissal; however Organisations should consider the types of award being made in the Employee redress forums, prior to making decisions which go against the Organisational / fair procedure.
Employees are often disciplined when they do not follow procedures, Organisations may end up at the Employment Appeals Tribunal or another Employee redress forum, and pay out substantial awards, for not following theirs.
Policies Are There For a Reason
Policies are implemented in the first place for a valid business reason. It is important that Organisations have a consistent method of treating all Employees fairly and in the same way, and whilst policies and procedures should allow for an element of discretion, there should be careful consideration when a decision to not follow the policy is being made, and of the possible consequences of this decision.
An Organisation should be cautious when making a decision to go against their policies, as precedence can then be set. If the Organisation pays for sick leave for one Employee, or ignores something that an Employee shouldn’t have done, then the next Employee who is out sick may have an expectation that they will be paid, or another Employee who should be disciplined for an incident or offence or for conduct, may expect that they would not be disciplined for a similar offence. And that Employee could be right in having that expectation or assumption, which is a consideration for Organisations.
When an Organisation has policies and procedures in place, careful consideration should be taken prior to deviating from same:
- Why is the Organisation deciding to not follow the policy in this case?
- Would the Organisation do the same if there was another occurrence?
- Can the Organisation objectively justify different treatment for different Employees?
If there is an element of Organisational policies and procedures that an Organisation do not wish to follow, then why not make an amendment to that policy if appropriate? It is vital to treat all Employees of your Organisation in a consistent manner, whilst being transparent in the application of Organisational policies and procedures in order to foster strong Employee Relations, and to allow Employees feel that they trust and can approach the Organisation, as they are aware that all Employees are treated in the same manner.
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