In this help sheet series, Our Community’s resident agony uncle, Chris Borthwick, offers answers to frequently asked questions about issues not-for-profits are facing.
Question from 'Paul Easy'
We are looking into updating some of our policies using the templates provided on your website. I was wondering if there is a rule/policy on how to remove a policy after it has been ratified and make it more into guidelines instead? We're looking at changing our uniform policy.
Agony Uncle’s answer
Dear Mr Easy,
What, to you, is the essential difference between a policy and a guideline? I think you may be attributing more force to policies than they actually have.
Laws are entirely binding on everybody. Your constitution is binding on members, but you can change it at a special meeting. Your policies are exactly as binding as you've said they are. That is, you can specify in your constitution that members can be expelled for breaching policies, or you can specify in employment contracts that employees will be dismissed for breaching policies. But if you don't – if you haven't specified any consequences – then guidelines is all they essentially are anyway.
Still, you're asking because you plan to do something that doesn't conform to policy. I would have thought that the first point of call was probably a discussion of whether the policy should be changed to conform to your practice. Do you want uniforms or don't you? If you just want colour co-ordination, or smart casual, or whatever kind of partial compliance guidelines would imply, why not simply write that into the policy?
In any case, once you've made up your mind, the process is absolutely straightforward. What the board gave, the board can take away. A motion to the board can give any policy, guideline, suggestion or hint, individually or collectively, whatever consequences within the organisation that the board chooses. The board can add policies at one meeting and remove them or modify them or water them down into guidelines at the next, free as a bird.
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