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Blog: There’s policy, and then there’s good policy

Policies and procedures fit neatly against one another – but how do they differ?

A policy is a statement that guides an organisations operations and decision-making, as well as a binding document that supports the actions of the organisation and individual workers. Plenty of policies fulfill this definition, but what makes a good policy?

  • Good policy: makes administration easier, not over-complicated
  • Enables an organisation’s core business to be efficient and effective
  • Provides a framework for confident and consistent decision-making
  • Is clearly aligned with the organisation’s values, mission and principles.

Procedure is how policy is enacted. The table below explains the difference between policy and procedure.

Table depicting policies and procedures. Left column is Policy. Right column is Procedures. Policy: Guiding principles - reflects principles, vision, mission. Procedure: Specific way of doing things - practical application of policies. Policy: Why? What? Procedure: How? When? Who? Policy: Identifies issues and scope. Procedure: Establishes proper steps. Policy: Not hard and fast rules. Procedure: Stricter in nature and follows a specified set of rules. Polices and procedures are complimentary.

The New South Walves Industrial Relations website has a great Workplace Policies and Procedures Checklist, which we recommend checking out.

Incorporating human rights into policy writing:

It is important that organisational staff understand how to act compatibly with the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld). The Act outlines clear responsibilities for organisations who deliver state Government services in Queensland and these responsibilities need to be incorporated into your policy and procedure documents. How this will look in practice will vary from situation to situation, but some general guidelines have been provided by the Human Rights commission.

With all this in mind, it is a good idea to review your policies and procedures with a Human Rights based mindset and incorporate human rights into the policies you are developing or reviewing.

Here are four key themes to think about when incorporating human rights into your policies.

Language:

Individuals are rights bearers, and thus it is essential to reflect this in your language choice.

You must also recognise that policy language influences your organisation’s language and culture. Your chosen language will set the tone for how staff will enact policies. You could also use positive narratives to highlight human rights. New policies that incorporate human rights will change the way staff have always worked, so it is crucial that the Human Rights Act does not seem difficult in your policies.

Relevance:

It is important to contextualise human rights and make them relevant to the work you are doing. You should identify any human rights that could be engaged in the delivery of policy or procedure to ensure relevant human rights are acknowledged, and staff know when to consider them. Also, consider maintaining a dedicated human rights policy. This will outline how your organisation’s missions and strategies align with the Human Rights Act.

Individualism:

Human rights apply to individuals. So, you must consider what impact a decision will have on an individual’s human rights. It is also necessary to consider human rights holistically. You need to look further than just the rights relevant to the service you deliver and consider the rights relevant to the person’s circumstances more broadly. It is also crucial to guide staff in considering the rights of all people involved. So, when writing your policies, remind staff to consider everyone relevant to the situation, not just the individual service user. Equality:

The Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) is equal to all other state legislation. So, it is important that the act is mentioned equally alongside other legislation in your policies. It is also worth remembering, as legislation the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) sits above your organisations policies and procedures so you should expect to adapt your organisations practices in response to new legislative requirements.

Governance:

Human rights should be considered when making decisions, these decisions could limit or fulfil a persons human rights. Roles should be clarified so that all workers have guidance. You may like to implement a peer review system, or utilise exisitng hierarchy to achieve this. It is also crucial to provide staff with guidance as to the difference between significant and trivial decisions so they can consider human rights when necessary.

Additionally, outline leadership oversight of human rights in your policies and procedures. This creates transparency as to how your organisation’s leadership understands and monitors human rights. It should also be recognised that documentation is essential, you need proof that human rights were considered should a complaint arise. Finally, adopt a flowchart guide to decision-making, and use it consistently.


Portions of this blog were informed by the work of the QCOSS Human Rights, Housing and Homelessness project. To find out more visit the QCOSS website.

The Quality Collaboration Network is a peer-led network hosted by QCOSS for those involved in implementing the Human Services Quality Framework within their organisation. At monthly meetings, the network focuses on topics relevant to those driving regulatory compliance within their organisations. In September 2021, the QCN examined policy development and in particular the incorporation of the Human Rights Act (2019) into policy writing.