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HR as a driver for safeguarding

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HR strategy

An HR strategy should set out the organisation’s approach to recruiting, managing and developing individuals and an overall approach to workplace culture.

To deliver safeguarding well you should include these things in your strategy.

  • Activities and policies that promote safety and wellbeing
  • A workforce plan which clearly identifies roles that work with children and/or adults at risk
  • Details and provisions of safeguarding training and risk assessments
  • Staff, volunteer and trustee engagement strategies which also reference safeguarding
  • Supervision and performance management strategies which include safeguarding in the review frameworks
  • Policies for responding to, recording and reporting concerns, complaints and allegations of all kinds, including safeguarding

Policies

Safeguarding policies and procedures are essential tools to protect people from harm. However, a number of different policies play a part in making sure you’re running a safer organisation.  Whether you create each of these policies separately, or group some of them together, you should make sure you have:

  • a safeguarding policy and procedures relating to children and to adults at risk
  • reporting procedures relating to children and to adults at risk
  • a recruitment and selection policy featuring safer recruitment
  • one or more codes of conduct
  • an equality and diversity policy
  • a bullying and harassment policy
  • a whistleblowing policy
  • a disciplinary policy
  • a grievance policy
  • a health and safety policy
  • a procurement policy
  • policies to suit particular arrangements such as apprenticeships or work experience.

You must make sure:

  • policies are publically available, easy to find and easy to use
  • all staff, volunteers and trustees read the policies and sign to confirm they understand them
  • policies are reviewed every year, so they’re kept up to date with legislation and you can track whether they’re working or not. 

Additional policy guidance

  • As a HR manager, you’ll often need to support the designated safeguarding lead through a reporting process. Read more in the responding to concerns section of our Designated Safeguarding Lead's Handbook.
  • Our policies and procedures page contains links to writing guides on safeguarding policies for children and adults.  

Managing safeguarding well  

Excellent policies are only effective when they’re implemented well. To check whether you have the right approach in place you can use the following list of questions.

  • Do you respond to all issues quickly and fairly, taking into account the level of risk to others and whether the issue includes harm, abuse or neglect?
  • Is there a good relationship between the HR department and the designated safeguarding lead for the organisation?
  • Are very serious allegations and concerns immediately reported to the police?
  • Do you investigate ‘off the record’ conversations if you think that there could be a safeguarding concern?
  • Do you suspend individuals as soon as a potential safeguarding issue is raised?
  • Do you use training and support via disciplinary and capability policies to address issues of performance?
  • Do you have a good process for storing and sharing information only with relevant people during a safeguarding investigation?
  • Do you have counselling support available for individuals during investigations?
  • Do you make sure that no NDA or settlement agreement ever prevents you from disclosures of misconduct and reports to regulators such as the Charity Commission?
  • Do you combine HR information about grievances, disciplinaries, equality and diversity complaints with the designated safeguarding lead’s information when reporting to trustees?
  • Do you use appropriate questions in exit interviews as a way to encourage people to raise any hidden grievances or concerns that relate to safeguarding or harassment?
  • Do you make sure any agencies you work with have safeguarding practices and policies that are as robust as your own?
Example
A staff member at The Soutra Trust is having an informal chat with their line manager. They mention that one of their colleagues often takes young people into a room and locks the door to speak to them when they are upset. The line manager has recently completed an eLearning safeguarding course and identifies that lone working has higher risks. They ask for a written record of what the staff member has seen and then they share it with the designated safeguarding lead to discuss the appropriate steps. 
They decide to reinforce at a team briefing that the code of conduct requires staff to leave doors open and make sure other colleagues are in the area. They also speak individually with the person concerned to make sure they understand the correct behaviour. They tell them that any further breaches will be considered a disciplinary matter. The line manager places a sign on the back of the door stating it should not be locked and places a poster on the wall detailing how concerns or complaints can be reported.     

A safer culture

The work the HR department does to create a strong workplace culture is one of the most important elements in keeping people safe.
You should aim to make sure:

  • people know they have a right to be safe
  • staff and volunteers are comfortable to raise concerns at the earliest possible stage
  • staff and volunteers are well trained and have the courage to challenge and act on issues quickly.
Example
The Fairwood Foundation has a new HR manager who starts reviewing the organisation’s policies. They discover that the foundation has good, thorough safeguarding policies and procedures but most of its staff and volunteers are not aware of them. So they decide to change that by publishing its safeguarding policy on the intranet and internet and putting posters in the foundation’s public meeting spaces. They also write a regular column in the internal newsletter highlighting different aspects of safeguarding.

Further resources

Procurement

To do safeguarding well, you need to consider the contracts you have with third parties. You must make sure they’ll help you deliver your commitment to building a safer culture and a safer organisation.

Whether you have a formal procurement policy or not, you must make sure you have clear contractual safeguarding requirements for third parties (freelancers, contractors, suppliers).

The extent of the requirements may vary depending on the role the third party is taking on. For example you may require higher standards from a consultant who is training your staff than from a stationary supplier. However, you should expect all third parties to understand safeguarding and have their own policies and procedures. This can protect your organisation from reputational risk as well as protecting your staff, volunteers and the people you work with from harm.

Safeguarding is particularly important when you are working with agencies that supply personnel. Only use agencies that have robust safer recruitment policies and procedures. Make sure they provide you with up-to-date safeguarding policies and procedures and that they take all the appropriate pre-employment checks that you would. 

Example
The Rayas Housing Project has a clause in an agency agreement that:
‘The agency shall have and operate safeguarding policies and procedures which it shall provide to the project on request. The agency will inform the project of any relevant safeguarding concerns. Any concerns on how the agency is managing safeguarding could lead to the termination of the agreement’.
Page last edited Sep 30, 2019

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