The Importance of Defining and Enforcing Company Policies in British Columbia
One of the most important things learned from the recent case involving the City of Nanaimo and their former Chief Financial Officer is the critical importance (and value) of defining and enforcing company policies. In the case involving Nanaimo’s previous CFO, the city’s failure to enforce its corporate policy surrounding the use of company-issued credit cards resulted in the perfect storm of card misuse, suspicion and, ultimately, discrimination. When company policies aren’t defined and then indiscriminately enforced, companies risk making some employees feel unfairly singled out if the same rules don’t apply to everyone.
For this reason, defining and enforcing company policies is not just a matter of good practice; it’s a strategic imperative. Establishing clear and well-enforced policies not only safeguards the interests of the organization but also contributes to a healthy and equitable work environment and legal compliance while mitigating potential losses.
In this article, we will explore why it’s crucial for businesses in British Columbia to define and rigorously enforce their company policies, from employees’ use of company credit cards and attendance to occupational safety measures, conduct and more.
Legal Compliance and Risk Mitigation
British Columbia, like the rest of Canada, has a comprehensive legal framework governing various aspects of employment and business operations. Clear company policies help businesses navigate these legal complexities while ensuring compliance where it matters most. In addition, by ensuring company policies adhere to laws and regulations, businesses can mitigate legal risks, including costly fines, penalties, and potential lawsuits.
Fostering a Safe and Inclusive Work Environment
Company policies set the tone for workplace culture. Policies that promote fairness, inclusivity, and respect create an environment where employees feel safe, valued, and motivated. This, in turn, boosts morale and productivity while reducing incidents of harassment, discrimination, and workplace conflicts.
Protection of Real and Intellectual Property and Data
In addition to company vehicles and equipment, many businesses in British Columbia also rely heavily on intellectual property and sensitive data. Well-defined policies regarding the protection, use, and sharing of these assets are crucial. Enforcing such policies safeguards property and proprietary information and prevents data breaches, which can have severe financial and reputational consequences. Establishing clear boundaries and policies around company property can also help avoid misunderstandings that can occur when staff take things home with them or use company equipment for personal interests.
Clarity in Employee Expectations
Company policies provide employees with clear guidelines and expectations regarding their roles and responsibilities. This clarity helps improve job satisfaction and performance. When employees understand what is expected of them, they are more likely to meet those expectations and contribute positively to the organization’s goals. This can also include company policies surrounding employee conduct outside of the workplace. For example, consider the recent case of an employee who was fired for breaching his company’s policy by “rescuing a moose.” Ethical dilemmas like the moose rescue case highlight why company policies should be carefully crafted and outline protocols and procedures employees can follow if they have questions or if their behaviour risks conflicting with their company’s rules and expectations.
Equal Opportunity and Diversity
In a diverse province like British Columbia, it’s essential for businesses to embrace diversity and equal opportunity. Well-crafted policies can address hiring practices, promotion criteria, and workplace inclusivity and accessibility measures. Enforcing these policies ensures that all employees, regardless of their background, have an equal chance to thrive within the organization. It also ensures companies abide by the BC Human Rights Code around workers’ rights, hiring and employment standards.
Company policies serve as a reference point for decision-making at all levels of the organization. When policies are well-defined and consistently enforced from the top down, they provide a clear roadmap for addressing various issues, from resolving disputes to allocating resources. This consistency helps streamline operations, reduce ambiguity, and shape your company’s culture.
Enhanced Reputation and Brand Image
Businesses that demonstrate a commitment to ethics, sustainability, and social responsibility through their policies will benefit from an enhanced reputation and brand image. This can increase customer trust and loyalty, ultimately benefiting the bottom line.
Nowadays, nearly everyone has a smartphone and access to social media, making recording and distributing both good and bad publicity more effortless than ever for anyone to do. How shareholders and employees conduct themselves outside of the workplace can have just as much of an effect on brand image as how they behave within the workplace. For this reason, creating corporate policies that outline your company’s expectations, including behaviour outside of work and online, can help prevent potential PR disasters and legal ramifications. When employees feel they are treated fairly and understand they are walking concierges of your brand, they are more likely to be mindful of their actions.
Employee Training and Development
Company policies can also facilitate employee training and development. By outlining the organization’s expectations for professional growth and development opportunities, businesses can attract and retain top talent and foster a culture of continuous learning. Policies that establish fair opportunities for training and promotion can increase skill retention in an exceedingly tight labour market competing for talent.
Adaptation to Changing Business Environments
As businesses evolve, so do their challenges and opportunities. Well-defined policies can be adapted to address changing circumstances and emerging trends, including remote working arrangements and employee surveillance software. This flexibility allows businesses to stay competitive and responsive in an ever-changing marketplace. It also ensures that the company’s attitude and approach are perceived as sensible and fair to their employees and customers. There are situations which may sometimes warrant making an exception to a rule. For this reason, policies don’t replace good HR people but instead help support them to govern in a way that is fair to employees while also protecting your company’s best interest.
Accountability and Consistency
Enforcing company policies ensures accountability at all levels of the organization. When policies are consistently applied and enforced, employees understand that actions have consequences. This accountability promotes fairness and prevents favouritism or bias. Moreover, it gives companies a legal recourse when policies like anti-harassment policies are broken. In addition, policies that outline your company’s duty to accommodate employees and protected grounds can help ensure your company is fulfilling its legal duty to support employees, preventing human rights infringements.
In British Columbia, where businesses operate in a diverse and dynamic environment, defining and enforcing company policies is not an option—it’s a necessity. Companies would also be wise to have the help of trusted HR and employment specialists when crafting their contracts and policies to ensure they reflect employment standards and ordinances. Clear and rigorously enforced policies help businesses navigate legal complexities, foster a safe and inclusive work environment, protect assets, and streamline operations. Ultimately, defining and enforcing company policies is an investment in the organization’s long-term success.
Spraggs Law Can Help
If you’re a business owner or employee in British Columbia and you have questions about company policies, our Human Resources Consultant and Employment Law Experts can help. Contact us today at (604) 359-1627 or reach out to us online.
Please note: This article does not contain legal advice. If you would like advice on your specific situation, please contact Spraggs Law.