Committee Terms of Reference (TOR)
WHAT ARE TERMS OF REFERENCE? DO YOU NEED THEM?
Terms of Reference (TOR) form a foundation stone for the commencement of any workplace investigation. Much like a recipe, they set out the core people and components of the investigation, as well as the boundaries and methods to be utilised. Without solid terms of reference, an employer’s well-meaning attempt to gather information and fix a workplace problem can fail, or cause even more problems. As well as establishing an understanding of what is required and by when, TOR create an excellent framework for the more detailed investigation plan. Terms of reference can prevent such pitfalls as misunderstandings, unintended breaches of privacy, and negative effects on relationships.
WHEN SHOULD THE TOR BE DEVELOPED?
There are no hard and fast rules regarding how and when TOR should be drafted. Some employers start with a Statement of Complaint and flesh out the terms of the proposed investigation based upon this central concern. Others call upon the services of a workplace investigator to actually assist in drafting TOR, particularly where a workplace problem is vast, sensitive, and/or complex. Sometimes it is important to wait and collate some preliminary materials prior to pinning down the exact terms of the investigation. In any event, it is important to start working on your TOR sooner rather than later, and certainly once a workplace investigation is confirmed.
Below are typical sections of a ToR document. Each section needs to be customized to the unique needs of your committee. More formal committees usually need more formal information and instructions
Official name of the committee or group
Can be standing, ad hoc (special project) or advisory (related to another board, committee or project)
Describe the purpose of the committee (what the committee will do, why it was created)
Clearly describe what is in and out of scope for the committee
Describe the decision making authority of the committee (decides, approves, recommends, etc.)
Type and number of members, how members are appointed, how the chair and co-chair are appointed and a list of members (Name and functional role)
Meeting frequency and location, meeting procedures (if applicable), quorum, details about agendas and minutes (how these will be distributed, available online, who prepares them, etc.), communication between meetings.
Describe whom the committee will report to, in what format, how often
Resources and budget
Describe the available resources (people, rooms, equipment, etc.) available to the committee, Describe the funds available to the committee
Describe the requested/required committee output
State the ToR review frequency and next review date
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This guide is only an aide memoire and intended for information only for anyone appraising the documentation needed in an audit/compliance check. It is not to be considered as direct advice or intended to replace specific 1 to 1 engagement with your compliance and risk professional.