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Miriam Boudreaux

Quality Insider

What Is the Grandfather Clause and When Should I Use It?

Use common sense in setting it and stick to it

Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - 12:58

When implementing a new management system based on ISO standards, experts usually invoke the grandfather clause as a way to relieve the enforcement of some requirements. When, where, and how often can the grandfather clause be invoked?

The grandfather clause is a statement that an organization makes to declare that, before a specific date, certain individuals or processes do not comply with company rules or regulations.

The grandfather clause has three basic components: [Individual/process] + [area of grandfathering] + [date].

Here is an example of a grandfather clause taken from a quality manual:
The effective implementation date of the quality management system is Sept. 1, 2012. This date is also used for grandfathering* of suppliers, employees, and records.
* The grandfather clause is used as a way to grant exemptions to all those who were part of the organization before the new quality management system rules went into effect.

And here is another example taken from a human resources procedure:
All employees who were part of Mireaux Management Solutions on or before Sept. 1, 2012, are considered grandfathered in terms of education and experience, and therefore are competent to perform their duties and responsibilities.

These are, of course, just examples. The grandfather clause can be worded many ways to suit your needs.

Why grandfathering

When an organization is seeking ISO certification, whether it be to ISO 9001, ISO 14001, or ISO 27001, it’s understandable there may be new rules to enforce. The grandfather clause helps us to recognize that things were done differently before ISO requirements were instituted. It is a way for the organization to approve those people and processes, based on historical performance, to continue being part of the organization.

When to use the grandfather clause

The grandfather clause can be used to exempt people or processes from scrutiny regarding the past. Plainly said, if Joe has been working as a mechanic at your facility for 20 years, he must be doing something right; therefore, you can’t fire him just because he doesn’t fit the requirements of the newly instituted job descriptions. If a new prerequisite for his position includes a college degree, you can disregard it because he has 20 years of experience. Going forward, you’ll hire new mechanics who meet the job description requirements and have college degrees, but for now you’re keeping Joe based on his experience and tenure with your organization.

Similarly, you can use the grandfather clause for processes. Let’s take engineering processes as an example. You know that, prior to a certain date, your drawings, design reviews, and design validations were not created or performed according to the newly established procedures. In compliance with design and development requirements of the ISO standard to which you are certified, you accept that moving forward you will abide by the new procedures; however, you cannot guarantee that work done prior to the grandfather clause date was done accordingly.

How many times can I use the grandfather clause?

Obviously, you want to invoke the grandfather clause only once. Usually I recommend that clients set the grandfather clause date during the first year that they are going for certification. That seems like a natural dividing line: “Before this date, we were not complying with ISO standards, and so ISO standards didn’t apply; now that we’ve decided to seek ISO certification, the standards all apply.”

I definitely do not recommend that you invoke the grandfather clause more than three times; that would defeat the purpose of the clause. Shifting the date forward as time passes will seem as though you are looking for excuses to not meet the requirements of the standard rather than honestly saying you were not in conformance before.

Do registrars accept using the grandfather clause?

Yes, registrars are fine with the grandfather clause. In fact, in our consulting firm, we use the grandfather clause all the time. However, leaning on the grandfather clause too often may give the impression that an organization is trying to dodge responsibility, and so we plan our grandfather clause statements and dates carefully. And once we reach that date, by all means, we make sure everyone enforces it.

Whether it is for people or processes, we make sure all is in order. If anyone new is hired, we will ensure their education, training, skills, and experience match those established in job descriptions, or that there are signed waivers if anything differs. Or if we have a new supplier, we make sure that this supplier was approved following the supply-chain procedure or process.

It’s worth emphasizing that most registrars want to see at least three months of solid use of your management system for an audit. Therefore, your grandfathering date should be at least three months before the date of the registrar’s initial visit or a stage-one audit for first-time certifications.

Can records be avoided when using the grandfather clause?

Some people wonder whether using the grandfather clause is a free pass to forgo records. The answer is no. You still need the records. Granted, those records may lack certain objective evidence, but that’s exactly where the grandfather clause comes in.

Let’s go back to our mechanic Joe. You still need to have a personnel file (hard copy or electronic) with Joe’s application, résumé, training records, etc. Obviously, in our example, those records will show that he does not have a college degree. That’s when you invoke the grandfather clause. But what if Joe never filled out an application or doesn’t have a résumé? You need to have documentation showing when he was hired, and at minimum, you must have training records—even if the training records are only for when he was trained in the new ISO program and procedures.

I hope you now have a better understanding of what the grandfather clause means and when you can use it. The goal is to continually improve, not to look for excuses. Use the grandfather clause carefully and you will help your management system succeed.


About The Author

Miriam Boudreaux’s picture

Miriam Boudreaux

Miriam Boudreaux is the CEO and founder of Mireaux Management Solutions, a technology and consulting firm headquartered in Houston, Texas. Mireaux’s products and services encompass international standards ISO and API consulting, training, auditing, document control and implementation of Web QMS software platform. Mireaux’s 6,500 square foot headquarters, located in the northwest area of Houston, houses their main offices as well as their state-of-the art training center. Mireaux itself is certified to ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 27001:2013. To get in touch with Miriam Boudreaux, please contact her at info@mireauxms.com.


Excellent!!!!! Just what i

Excellent!!!!! Just what i was trying to find!

Hi , Who has a grandfathering

Hi , Who has a grandfathering degree and how do I use it?