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Developing policies and procedures

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Use this page to check your voluntary organisation has the right policies and procedures in place to employ and manage staff. You can also use it as a guide when drafting new policies and procedures for this purpose.

Looking for guidance on developing policies or procedures for other purposes?

What are policies and procedures?

Policies are clear, simple statements that explain how your organisation intends to conduct its services, actions or business. They provide a set of guiding principles to help with decision making.

Policies don't need to be long or complicated – a few sentences may be all you need for some policy areas.

Procedures describe how each policy will be put into action in your organisation. Each procedure should outline:

  • who will do what
  • what steps they need to take
  • which forms or documents to use.

Procedures might just be a few bullet points or instructions. Sometimes they work well as forms, checklists, instructions or flowcharts.

Why they matter

Policies and their accompanying procedures help organisations to:

  • comply with the law and regulations
  • set out how things should be done and what is expected of people
  • achieve a consistent approach across the organisation
  • create transparency and accountability
  • limit risk.

Essential policies and procedures

The range and scope of the policies and procedures you need will depend on:

  • the size of your organisation
  • who your audience/beneficiaries are
  • how your staff members engage with them.

As a minimum, all organisations should put in place the following.

Health and safety policy

If you have five employees or more, you’re legally required to have a health and safety policy.

Sickness absence policy and procedure

You’ll need to specify in writing what procedures employees need to follow when they’re sick.

Annual leave procedure or arrangements

You should inform your employees in writing about booking and notification procedures for annual leave.

Grievance and disciplinary procedure

You should have a clear procedure in place that outlines how you handle grievances and disciplinary matters.

Equality, diversity and inclusion policy

You should have an equality and diversity policy, which includes the organisation’s position on anti-discrimination and harassment of employees, volunteers and service users.

Data protection policy

Your data protection policy is the commitment you’re making to protect data in accordance with the law. This includes data about staff and beneficiaries. Your procedures show how you’re going to comply with the law. You could develop a specific data protection policy, or cover data protection in your other policies.

Safeguarding policy

Every voluntary sector organisation should have key documents that help it manage safeguarding well. They’re particularly important if your organisation is a charity or if you work regularly with children or adults at risk.

Rules/code of conduct

You should share a simple set of rules, so staff are clear on what is and isn’t acceptable when they’re at work. The rules could cover things like:

  • making personal phone calls
  • confidentiality
  • accepting gifts
  • data protection
  • use of computers.

These rules may be included in your grievance and disciplinary procedure and code of conduct, as well as within individual policies.

Others to consider

It’s also good practice to have the following in place – particularly if you have 30 or more employees. NCVO members can follow the links to access sample documents, guides and templates designed to help you write your own policies and procedures.

Human resources

Office management

Writing policies and procedures

If you’re an NCVO member and are looking to develop policies and procedures for your organisation, you can use our sample and template policies and procedures as a starting point. Just be sure to adapt them for your circumstances.

You should also check the policies you adopt comply with the law and your organisation’s governing document.

It’s a good idea to label your policies and procedures as ‘non-contractual.’ This gives you the opportunity to update the policies without potentially breaching your employment contracts.

Involving the right people

Your policies and procedures are more likely to be accepted if you involve staff in their development. They’ll be able to tell you how things work in practice, and where things could be improved. You can build these comments into your policies and procedures, where appropriate.

If you recognise trade unions, you should also consult with them. Depending on your union recognition agreement, you may be required to negotiate with the relevant union.

Consider whether any proposed new policy may make a significant change to the existing terms and conditions of employment of your staff. It if does, you’ll need the agreement of your staff before you can make the change.

Creating a staff handbook

If you have lots of policies and procedures, you could collate them into a staff handbook. You could place your full policies in the handbook, or simply list them and link out to them, so staff know where to find them.

NCVO members can download our staff handbook template.

Last reviewed: 01 August 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 01 August 2022

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