Many of you have told us that harmonising hr policies is on your list for the coming year, so we thought you might be interested in what we think are the key points to consider when undertaking this.
Start with Why
First of all, be clear about why you wish to harmonise your policies. It could be one of many things; you may need to satisfy legislative or regulatory requirements, you may wish to strengthen your messaging around values and culture, you may want to address the changing expectations of today’s workforce or enhance the employee experience.
A simple reason may be that there are too many variations and life would be easier if they were all the same, but it may be more helpful to focus on any issues that your inconsistencies create, and consider whether this is because of the policies or just the application of them.
Once you’ve established what you are trying to achieve, you can then identify which hr policies would need to be harmonised to achieve your aims.
What Exactly Needs to Change?
Depending on the number of variations, the detail of the new policy is likely to cause some headaches. Especially if there are cost, resource or historical benefit implications. Crunching all the numbers andharmonising hr policies working through the various scenarios shouldn’t be rushed and getting input from relevant specialists inside or outside the business will make for a better outcome.
Timing is also key. Avoid times when any large sensitive employment changes are taking place or a significant business project that may impact, or be impacted by the changes planned.
If the changes are likely to feel negative for some, is there any scope for a trade off? This doesn’t have to be monetary.
If any policies (or the provisions contained) are contractual then you won’t be able to vary them without agreement – as it would be a variation to terms and conditions of employment. If you aren’t able to obtain agreement and believe that there are significant business reasons to vary the T&Cs, then you could serve notice to terminate the existing contract and offer re-engagement on new terms. This approach would require a collective consultation process with minimum consultation periods where more than 19 employees are affected. Due to the risks involved you would be wise to take legal advice.
If the variation of contractual provisions are being proposed for employees who were protected by TUPE, then in theory, variation isn’t allowed even if the new terms are favourable and you obtain agreement from the employees. Recent changes have been made for the favourable renegotiation of collective agreements one year after a transfer, but as TUPE can be complex – legal advice should still be sought.
If the policies to be changed aren’t contractual and there aren’t any TUPE implications, then you still need to consider how best to approach and communicate the harmonisation if you are to engage well with your employees.
Involving employees in some form of early consultation about the proposed changes is the ideal (and is likely to be the default if any part of your organisation is unionised or you have employee consultation forums).This can lead to a smoother acceptance of the changes and could even result in valuable ideas being brought forward.
If the policies aren’t contractual and you don’t consult, then full communication about the reasons for harmonising and the details of the changes is important to ensure everyone understands what is happening and why. Managers should be trained in the new content and be involved in promoting the existence of the new policies.
If you have a communications specialist in your organisation then make use of their skills.
And finally, talk to others who have made similar changes and learn what did and didn’t work for them.