February 14 2007 - Research by NETconsent has found that nearly 50 per cent of UK organizations could be vulnerable to litigation by primarily using the intranet to manage corporate policies. The survey concludes that many organizations "have a passive and potentially dangerous attitude towards managing their policies". While intranets can improve efficiency and business processes by facilitating effective communication, those systems that have grown in stages can be difficult to manage and might no longer meet increasing compliance requirements.
The study highlights possible legal challenges associated with reliance on intranet policy management:
- "No proof" - It is not sufficient simply to make a policy available for reading on the intranet. Companies need to demonstrate that an employee understands and has agreed to it.
- "Out of date / inaccurate" - Policies need regular updating to reflect company and legislative changes.
- "Understanding" - Organizations need to ensure that policies are read and understood to establish their viability and effectiveness.
- "Relevance" - Policies should be targeted; it may be difficult for employees to determine which are personally relevant.
- "Access" - Not all employees may have access to the intranet or use it frequently enough to be aware of policy changes.
Dominic Saunders, operations director at NETconsent said:
"The research indicates just how many businesses rely on the intranet to communicate policies. While it is encouraging that companies are using policies to educate their employees and protect themselves, managing them over the intranet might not be enough."
The survey includes the following suggestions to improve intranet policy management:
- "Ease of use" -Creating, updating, distributing and monitoring responses of new and revised policies should be made simple to minimize time expenditure.
- "Updates" - Policies should be kept up to date with corporate culture, working practices, legal precedents and changes in legislation.
- "Record agreements" - Records of employee agreement both to relevant active policies and previous versions should be maintained.
- "Access for all" - All employees, including those not working centrally, should have access to policy information.
- "Control" - Only nominated people should be authorized make changes to policies and records.
- "Understanding" - Organizations should randomly test employees' understanding of policies to determine the necessity for further education or reviews.
- "Check" - Any policy agreement should be accessible at short notice.
Dominic Saunders commented:
"By using intranets to communicate policies, companies are leaving it to employees to locate and read policies but the responsibility should be with the employer, not the employee. Without evidence of the signed document, employers are leaving themselves open to risk. In the event of a breach of policy, organizations need to be able to demonstrate not only that they have a policy in place but that the employee concerned has seen and agreed to the document. The NETconsent suite helps organizations mitigate risks by rigorously maintaining full and accurate records of written policies, identifying who has seen and agreed to them, as well as proving whether users have understood the policies."
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