Employment policies and procedures are crucial for all businesses as they:
- allow employers to effectively and consistently communicate operational matters to employees;
- ensure that employees have a clear indication of what is expected of them;
- clarify what employees can expect from their employer.
So why should you have policies and procedures in place for your business?
Do you need policies and procedures?
The primary reason why businesses implement policies and procedures is to supplement the employee obligations set out in the employment contract.
Policies and procedures allow employers to communicate their values and expectations to employees. This is achieved by setting clear expectations of employee behaviour and conduct within the policies/procedure. In doing so, employers are able to clarify and reinforce standard operating procedures in a workplace and reduce their legal liability.
Workplace policies and procedures are also extremely useful in the event of a workplace dispute as they be relied on to determine whether or not an employee complied with their responsibilities.
Which policies and procedures should every business have?
There are two types of policies and procedures that every business should have:
- Core policies and procedures are those which concern an employer’s legal liability; and
- Operational policies and procedures are any other policies which communicate operation matters of the business.
Examples of core policies and procedures include an:
- information technology policy;
- anti-discrimination policy;
- harassment and bullying policy;
- complaints management policy;
- data breach policy;
- dispute and conflict resolution policy;
- work health safety and wellbeing policy;
- conflict of interest policy; and
- performance improvement plan policy.
Examples of operational policies and procedures include a:
- code of conduct;
- drug and alcohol policy;
- annual leave policy;
- absenteeism policy;
- long service leave policy;
- personal leave policy;
- social media policy;
- workplace surveillance policy; and
- dress code.
It is highly recommended that businesses have both core policies and procedures and operational policies and procedures in their business.
What are the limitations of policies and procedures?
Employers will need to publicise and provide all existing and new employees policies and procedures in order for them to be effective. After all, a policy or procedure is meaningless unless it is meaningfully communicated to employees and consistently enforced.
Policies and procedures may be ineffectively communicated if an employer does not provide the policies and procedures to existing and new employees. They may also be ineffective if they are only available in hard copy upon request. As such, copies of policies and procedures should be easily accessible and kept in folders in a central location, in staff manuals and on the employer’s intranet system.
In order to ensure policies and procedures are not limited in any way, all existing and new employees should be required to sign and date an acknowledgment and undertaking for each of the policies and procedures in an employer’s enterprise.
How to enforce policies and procedures
There are two common approaches adopted by employers to ensure that policies and procedures can be enforced:
- All existing and new employees should be required to sign and date an acknowledgment and undertaking for each of the policies and procedures in an employer’s enterprise so that it is abundantly clear that an employee has read, understood and agrees to be bound by the employer’s policies and procedures.
- An employee’s employment contract should state that the employee agrees to comply with the employer’s employment policies and procedures including those which are introduced, replaced or amended from time to time. This can be further strengthened by providing that an employer’s policies and procedures are incorporated into the employment contract and impose legal obligations on the employee.
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