Breaching policies and procedures can be a minor occurrence or it can be something repetitive that highlights an underlying problem with an individual. Policies and procedures convey what the company stands for, what its expectations are and what it believes in. When an employee is constantly breaching these policies, then it showcases a disregard for compliance and business values. Handling each case should be done carefully as they may differ from one another and they may vary in severity.

Examples of employees breaching policies

So what exactly counts as a breaching of policy? It could be something minor such as posting something against social media policy or coming to work late on numerous occasions. Something more severe could be harassing or bullying a colleague. Here it is important to remember that an employee may be breaching federal laws and regulations without breaching company policies.

An employee may be breaching unfair or non-inclusive policies. This is usually because companies may not consider people of various backgrounds and many needs. Inflexible and outdated policies are more likely to be breached, hence the importance of updating them regularly. When looking at the issue, employers should consider if the employee is at fault or the organisation.

Handling the breaching of policy

Employers and managers have to follow certain steps if they have been notified that an employee is breaching policies and procedures. The order may differ slightly or some steps will be skipped depending on how serious the violation is. Consider:

  • Talking with the employee
  • Giving them a written warning
  • Investigating the incident
  • Taking disciplinary action

Talking with the employee

A conversation between the staff member and the manager is essential for understanding what happened, getting the employee’s perspective and establishing whether they were aware that they were breaching company policy. This step is really important as it will guide how the rest of the steps will go. Make sure to gather enough information on what happened before you ask the employee for a meeting. This will allow for better questions and a more meaningful conversation.

If it was a minor violation, give them a gentle reminder of what the policy says and document the incident as well as the response to it. If what happened was more severe, a written warning and an investigation may be necessary.

Giving them a written warning

A written warning needs to be accompanied by a serious conversation. The manager needs to share the concerns they have, clearly explain to the employee how their actions are affecting their workplace and share with them what consequences will follow. The manager must keep a copy of the written warning and a summary of the conversation they had with the employee. It would be a good idea to recommend counselling to the employee so they can try to resolve any potential issues they have. Handling the breaching of the policy does not only involve reprimanding the employee but being willing to listen and help them improve their performance.

Investigating the incident

An investigation may be necessary to determine the right disciplinary action. The investigation will be able to gather all evidence and interview multiple parties to understand the extent of what occurred. Investigations are essential in instances of theft and fraud, constant non-compliance and bribery and corruption reports.

 Organisations will need to find the right investigator, identify all the individuals that could offer more details and plan out the investigation. They should inform the employees that an investigation will be required and inform them of the timeline and how the process will be carried out. Companies usually try to avoid investigations due to the high costs and long amounts of time it takes to conduct one effectively. Our customers choose Polonious to help their investigation team conduct the investigation efficiently and save costs.

Taking disciplinary action

After the investigation is concluded, the company will need to decide what disciplinary action is needed for breaching company policy. The employee handbook should include the types of disciplinary actions that can be taken by the employer. Disciplinary action can be:

Progressive discipline: This means that the consequences get harsher if the employee refuses to improve. While this can be a good strategy in some scenarios, in instances of bullying and harassment, a one-time response such as dismissal is more appropriate.

Suspension: An employee may be suspended temporarily after the investigation has been concluded. The best way for the suspension to be effective is to mandate training to be completed during that period so the employee understands how their behaviour negatively affected their work, colleagues and the company.

Performance Improvement Plan: Depending on which policy was breached, employees can benefit from a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). This will give them more knowledge and the necessary training to improve and come back stronger. The plan must have clear goals and objectives that the employee must achieve or work towards.

Reassignment: The investigation may have found that the employee is clashing with certain individuals due to personality differences. However, the company should have zero tolerance for unacceptable behaviour. The employee that violated company policies could be reassigned to a different department to avoid further issues. Another action could be the removal of benefits for a certain period of time.

Termination: Termination is usually reserved in situations where breaching company policy is something difficult to come back from. The employee may have committed something serious like fraud, sexual harassment or theft or they might be refusing to improve their performance or work on their behaviour. Sadly in these cases, dismissal can be the only option. Employers should ensure that the decision to fire the employee was made with careful consideration and provide evidence for their reasoning. Failure to do so could result in an unfair dismissal claim.


How to increase compliance with company policies

The reason the word increase is used is because it can be hard to ensure compliance or prevent an employee from breaching a company policy completely. However, there are some strategies that can make it easier to monitor compliance and ensure that employees know what is expected of them.

Set a schedule for updating policies regularly

 Updating policies and procedures regularly is crucial as new laws are introduced and individuals may not feel comfortable with the current policy. An example of this is the pay secrecy policy. Some states in the USA have pay transparency laws that ban pay secrecy. Australia introduced this law in December, being fully effective from June 7. If a company keeps up with local laws and regulations and updates company policies as appropriate, then the organisation will be able to avoid penalties. Spending some time reviewing the current documents can go a long way, as it will prevent costs and employee displeasure. 

Check that employees have read through policies

When a new employee joins a company, they will probably be overwhelmed with a lot of information about their new role. This means that they might skip or skim through policies and procedures without fully understanding them. Managers should check in with employees, see if they have questions or do training sessions where policies are highlighted. This will ensure that there is no confusion surrounding policies and procedures.

Make policies and procedures easily accessible

Policies and procedures should not be hard to access. They should be stored somewhere where employees can find them if they need them. This will allow them to double-check information, check what applies to them and refresh their memory if they need to. The more employees are exposed to policies and procedures, the less likely they are to breach them, as they know what is expected of them.

Establishing a rewards program

Rewarding employees for high performance is another way to ensure that they meet expectations. Bonuses, better benefits and greater incentives can encourage employees to meet work objectives. If employers do not think benefits should be given to employees for completing their tasks, employees who are compliant and always try their best should be acknowledged in some way. This will ensure that they do not feel underappreciated. When it comes to recognising their work, companies should listen to employees as to how they want to be recognised.

Please note

When responding to an employee breaching a policy there are a lot of factors to consider, such as the history of the employee, what kind of policy they breached, if another employee has breached the same policy in the past and how long the current employee has been working for the company for. Policies and procedures compliance needs to be taken seriously as non-compliance can highlight a lack of respect for the business and its expectations.

Polonious has assisted numerous companies with investigating non-compliance and improving their policies and procedures. We help investigators store all relevant information in one place, automate workflows and finish investigations faster. Polonious focuses on lowering processing and administrative time while also keeping all documents confidential. Our ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 certifications highlight our commitment to a high-quality and secure system. If you want to know more about how we can help you, reach out and we will be happy to give you a demo.