Workplace policies help a company maintain its mission while informing employees of what is expected of them. To prevent misunderstandings and inconsistencies among employees, it is critical that you put these policies in writing. In some cases, written employment policies are required by law. The key to drafting proper procedures is to identify the policies that apply to your employees and communicate them effectively.
Mandatory employment policies include matters relating to discrimination and harassment, wages and hours, breaks, record keeping, workers’ compensation, health and safety, immigration, employment taxes, and hiring and termination. Not all mandatory policies apply to the same employers, and different statutes might apply. For example, you may need to adhere to state minimum wage policies instead of federal minimum wage rules. In addition, some employment laws relate only to businesses of certain sizes or employees of a specific demographic, such as age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Even policies that are established on a company level are usually tied into employment law in some way. This includes matters relating to conduct, attendance, severance and commission payments, performance evaluations, dress codes, employee disputes, confidentiality, smoking, drug use, Internet and cell phone use, employee benefits and workplace violence.
Before you implement policies, determine which ones you are legally required to establish and which are the most common company policies. You can access free information on internal policies via the Internet from a reputable human resource organization, such as the Society for Human Resource Management. For best results, consult an employment consultant or attorney to help you write applicable policies, as this is generally a complicated process. Depending on the size of your company, you might seek assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration or SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business. You can also consult the government agency that administers the labor policy, such as the Department of Labor and the state labor department.
Length and Content
The policy should be clear and concise so employees can easily understand it. In many cases, individual policies run no more than one or two pages long. For example, a one-page drug-free policy might include the company’s objective, such as providing a safe and drug-free atmosphere for customers and employees. It should list what the company forbids, such as possession, use and selling of controlled substances. It should also include drug testing procedures, such as random, for-cause and post-accident testing, plus penalties for violating the policy.
Depending on the nature of your business and employees’ duties, some policies might run several pages long. For example, manufacturing and shipping companies have safety programs in place and must comply with many health and safety regulations. The safety manual should explain the procedures for doing potentially hazardous tasks and the importance of safety meetings, inspections and wearing protective gear. Keep comprehensive policies that affect only a specific group of employees or one department separate from your standard employee manual.
Give all employees a written copy of the policies that apply to them. Have an employment consultant or attorney review the policies periodically. Update the procedures accordingly and give employees a copy of the revised versions. To determine which policies are working and which might need modification, ask management and employees for their input. Create a standard form that employees must sign to acknowledge that they received and read the policy manual.