Clear workplace policies and procedures set out the expectations for employees and employers in the workplace, and mean everyone knows how things are meant to be done.

They are an important tool in managing employees and running a successful business. Policies can be updated regularly to ensure that employees are informed about their obligations in the workplace.

What are workplace policies?

Workplace policies are the rules that cover the workplace and set clear and consistent expectations for employees across an organisation. They are usually tailored to a particular employer or industry, to help make sure the rules make sense for the business.

They can cover a wide range of areas, for example:

·         Conduct (how employees should act);

·         Hours of work and overtime, including time in lieu and flexible working;

·         Lateness, sickness, and absence;

·         Health and safety;

·         Presentation, dress codes, or uniforms;

·         Travel;

·         Training and development;

·         Performance issues;

·         Conflicts of interest;

·         Privacy;

·         Internet, email and social media use;

·         IT usage and security.

·         Receiving Gifts

·         Alcohol and Drug testing

What are workplace procedures?

Workplace procedures explain the ways that things should be done, e.g. the forms that need to be filled out for requesting leave, or the way that health and safety incidents should be reported. Procedures are usually linked to the policies (i.e. the policy sets out the rules, and the procedure sets out how the employee should follow the rules).

How do workplace policies work alongside employment agreements?

Many employment agreements contain a clause which requires employees to follow all workplace policies and procedures. This allows employers to update their workplace policies as they need to, without having to get employees to sign new employment agreements each time there is a change in the policies. It is important that none of the workplace policies and procedures conflict with the employment agreement.

How are workplace policies and procedures recorded?

Workplace policies and procedures are usually recorded in writing, to ensure that all employees can access them. They may be displayed on staff noticeboards, organisational intranets or in staff manuals (either electronically or in hardcopy).

Some workplace rules may have become established as part of custom and practice, however, it is recommended that these are recorded in writing, to prevent misunderstandings.

How should new employees access the workplace policies?

New employees should be shown where to find the workplace policies, and should be advised that they should read and understand them. Employers should also talk to employees about the policies as part of an induction process, to ensure they are aware of the expectations and obligations from the outset of their employment.

How can an employer change the workplace policies, or add to them?

If there are new workplace policies being developed, or changes to existing policies, employees should be informed, and sent a link or shown where to find the new policies.

Does an employer have to consult with employees?

Some employment agreements may require that employees be consulted with on policies. Even if this is not a requirement, an employer may still wish to do this. Taking into account employees’ views on policies can help them be more effective, as employees usually have valuable insights into how things work in practice.

How should workplace policies be drafted?

Workplace policies should be drafted in clear, simple, language to make them easy to read and understand. Employers should consider:

·         What you are trying to achieve, and the principles you want to follow;

·         What is fair and reasonable for employees, and the kinds of behaviour you want to encourage;

·         Issues that have come up in the past, and how to avoid them happening again;

·         Questions that employees ask about how to do things;

·         Policies and rules that employers in a similar industry have;

·         Any legislation that may apply to a particular area (for example, health and safety law or privacy law);

·         The workplace culture that the employer wants to have;

·         Any views that employees have on the particular area; and

·         How to make sure people will follow the policies.

How can employers enforce workplace policies?

Where an employment agreement contains a clause that requires employees to follow workplace policies, employers can bring up any breaches of policies by employees as a misconduct issue. It is important that policies are readily accessible to employees, as otherwise, it may not be reasonable to require employees to follow them.

If you do not have such a clause in your employment agreements, you need to rely on enforcing a reasonable and lawful instruction as the basis for taking any action.

If you do not have a clause requiring employees to follow policies and procedures, such a clause should be added to all employment agreements. It is not usually a problem with Employment Agreements for proposed new employees. Changes need employee consent for existing employees, so it is best to seek advice on getting this process right.