Workplace policies are rules and guidelines for how you expect employees to behave when they work for your organization. They can also determine what policies your managers and HR departments should follow.
These policies may also include other details such as how employees can apply for certain benefits, guidance on workplace dress codes, or a code of conduct.
Some workplace policies offer helpful information for employees. Many of them are also required by law. There isn’t a limit on the number of policies you can write and implement as a business. However, it would be best to consider whether you need policies for certain matters or if “assumed behavior” is suitable.
For example, if you operate a business with access to a corporate fleet, consider writing a policy outlining how the cars should be treated. Providing guidelines such as “drivers should not break the speed limit or use the car for any illegal activity” is assumed behavior. You don’t need to include assumed behavior in the policy, but it’s good practice.
Why Are Workplace Policies Important?
Workplace policies are important to a business as they set guidelines for how employees should behave. They also ensure all employees understand what is and isn’t acceptable workplace behavior. Workplace policies give new employees a reference point for any questions.
Here are some other reasons you need a workplace policy.
- To comply with legal obligations. Some policies are a legal requirement at a state or federal level, so your policies must comply. Any policies which meet a legal requirement should be clearly displayed on your company’s website.
- For fairness. Applying consistent workplace policies ensures your employees are treated fairly. Your HR department should update your policies regularly. They should also keep them somewhere all employees can access them—such as with the employee handbook.
- Helps employees understand your processes. Having a set of workplace policies is important so your employees can reference them in confidence if they need to. For example, if employees feel their manager is bullying them, they may feel uncomfortable discussing this with their team. Having an anti-bullying and sexual harassment policy will help them understand what their next steps should be.
Different Types of Workplace Policies
There are several types of workplace policies, and they each fall into a different category. Read on to understand what policies fall into which category, and why they’re essential.
Operation policies outline how employees should behave in the workplace and the chain of command in case of sickness or absence. They can also include any health and safety expectations. Policies that outline employee dress codes, PTO requests, or notice periods are also included in this category.
While this type of information is usually included in contracts, having it available in a workplace policy can be helpful as they’re more accessible for your employees on a day-to-day basis. It’s a good idea to make sure all your policies are kept in one accessible place, like on your intranet or in an easy-to-access file.
Consider writing and implementing the following policies within this category.
Employee dress code
This policy may include how you expect employees to dress at work. Your organization might implement dress codes like “business casual” or include photographs of what they expect.
When writing a company dress code, you should consider your employees’ needs, such as the environment they’ll be working in. You should allow reasonable adjustments for employees with religious beliefs or disabilities. Not only will your employees be uncomfortable if you don’t do this, but it might be classed as discrimination.
Employee health and safety policy
An employee health and safety policy might include information about safe working practices. This might include any checklists employees need to fill in or pictures displaying safe working.
Employees are likely to be using this policy if there is a problem with health and safety, so try to make the policy easy to understand. You should also include how you expect employees to behave if there were a fire or bomb alert in the building and how to work safely with ladders. Depending on your industry, you might also need to include how to read COSHH forms or work with dangerous chemicals.
Drug and alcohol policy
This policy is usually challenging to write, as employers often want to refrain from dictating what employees do in their free time. Your employees must operate safe working practices, so a drug and alcohol policy is often necessary. This policy may also include what might happen if an employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol at work.
Your drug and alcohol policy is a great place to include information about drug-free workplaces. You could include links to websites or hotlines where employees can find help with addiction issues.
You should include employee notice periods, how to report an absence, and how to request PTO in this policy. You could also include information about working hours and break allowances. This is especially important in both hospitality and manufacturing industries where employees work long hours.
Legally required policies
You can find what policies are required at state and federal levels by accessing your state’s local government page. You can also find them by exploring the USA’s government page. Here you can find commonly requested US laws and regulations.
Anti-bullying and harassment policy
This policy should set out the company’s stance on what you consider to be harassment or bullying. You should explain that your workplace has a zero-tolerance policy on bullying and harassment. Following this, you should explain what support is available if employees are being bullied or harassed by their manager.
You ought to explain what steps the business will take when bullying or harassment is reported. Remember, employees accessing this policy might be experiencing bullying or harassment. This is why you must include links to where they can find support—for example—through your employee assistance program (EAP).
You should keep this policy somewhere accessible to all employees in case they need it at short notice. Try to keep it in a few different, discreet locations in case employees struggle to deal with the bullying.
Equal opportunities statement
This should specify how your business ensures equal promotion opportunities for all colleagues. The policy should include what steps you take to ensure fairness. This is regardless of race, gender, or any other protected characteristic.
It should also set out how your company prevents and deals with accusations of discrimination. You should list this policy on your website for transparency and to show that you’re a fair workplace that promotes diversity and equality.
Equal pay statement
Pay and gender equality have become more important topics recently. An equal pay statement should specify where the inequalities in your employee’s pay lie. You can find this through HR reporting and what steps your business is taking to remedy those inequalities. This information should also be included on your company website as part of DEI quotas.
Modern slavery statement
Modern slavery happens in every country. As an ethical employer, you must do everything possible to prevent it in your workforce. A modern slavery statement should define what you are doing to achieve this. Following that, you should outline what you would do if you suspected that any of your employees were the victims of slavery.
This policy will state how long you keep employee records in line with either state or federal guidelines. It should also include how employee records will be disposed of and what steps you would take if there were a data breach of employees’ information.
Compensation and benefits policies
Compensation and benefits policies may outline how employees are paid, including pay scales or pay bands. These policies may also include information about employee benefits and how employees can apply for them.
This policy should include the date your employees are paid and how employees can raise pay issues. You should also include information about pay scales or pay bands in your business and any bonus or incentive structures you might offer.
This statement should be as simple as possible, as employees will likely reference it frequently. Consider including tables, diagrams, or an FAQ section to make the policy more accessible.
This should set out the type of paid time off policy your company uses. Including any PTO limits and how employees can calculate their PTO allowance is advisable. You might also include how employees can request PTO and any other information about your employee’s PTO. For further guidance, you can download our free PTO template.
This policy should include information about what benefits your employees are eligible for and how they can apply for them. Depending on your business, you may also include how employees can apply for business expenses.
Performance and disciplinary policies
Policies that fall into this category will set out what behaviors are and aren’t acceptable in your workplace. They should also outline what steps will be taken should any unacceptable behavior occur.
While the policies in this section are not legally required, they will go a long way in helping your employees understand how to behave at work. It can also help your managers and HR departments manage employee relations cases. This will show your employees that you take performance and disciplinary matters seriously.
You may include the following types of policies.
This will be one of the most important policies for your HR departments. Your disciplinary policy should include what you consider to be misconduct and gross misconduct. It should also outline what steps will be taken should misconduct occur.
A disciplinary policy should also include what steps you will take in an investigation and what sanctions your employee may be issued with following the disciplinary policy—e.g., a verbal warning.
Your absence policy should explain all the steps employees will need to take if they are taking a leave of absence. This includes who they should report their absence to and whether the company will provide pay for it.
You should specify how much paid sick leave an employee will receive and how many absences they are allowed before they hit an absence trigger. You should also explain how you will support employees with a long-term illness or support employees with a disability.
This policy will explain how you will manage employees struggling to meet their job requirements. This policy will set out your company’s capability policy and the steps to support your employee. It should also explain the implications of not improving, such as being demoted or terminated.
This policy should set out what steps your business considers bribery and the steps you take to prevent it. It contains different examples of what bribery might look like and how it might come about. This is to help employees understand what they can do to prevent bribery.
How to Write and Implement a Workplace Policy
Once you’ve decided what policy you need, it’s time to write and implement it. You should take the following steps to help you write the best workplace policy possible.
Step 1: Consider your workforce
The first step in writing an excellent workplace policy is considering your audience. Your policy needs to be relevant and accessible to your workforce, and all aspects of the policy should apply to your employees.
For example, suppose your business is in the public sector or you work with government contracts. In that case, you will likely emphasize security and anti-bribery more than a small business or startup. Your policies should reflect this. You may wish to consider the following:
- Your industry
- Your employee’s working hours—for example—are they full-time, part-time, or contractors?
- What times do the employees work, and what are their shift schedules?
- Working location—on-site, remote, or hybrid.
Step 2: Research federal and state laws
Depending on the state you operate in and the size of your workforce, you may be bound by certain laws and regulations. Make sure that whatever policy you’re writing complies with the laws of your state and is regularly updated.
Consider setting up a news alert on your work computer for any legislation changes or sign up for an employment law newsletter to keep up to date.
Step 3: Thoroughly research your topic and consider a legal review
When writing your policy, ensure you have thoroughly researched the topic you are writing about. Look for HR blogs, free HR resources, and employment law lectures. You should also find templates of policies used previously or other online drafts to help you get started.
The person writing your policy will likely have a solid understanding of your business. However, having someone else proofread your policy is always helpful. Once you’ve created your first draft, consider asking an external legal or HR representative to read through your policy. They’ll be able to point out any unclear or ambiguous areas.
While this may be expensive at the time, should the policy hold any legal weight, it may save you money in the event of civil and tribunal cases. This includes cases of a disciplinary or legally required policy.
Step 4: Rollout
Once your policy is complete, it’ll be time to implement it. First, schedule a meeting with your managers to discuss the new policy. Provide them with a copy ahead of time, so they can read the policy and have questions prepared.
You may need to tweak the policy based on recommendations, so be sure to factor in time. Once the managers feel confident using the policy, you can roll it out to the rest of the business.
Workplace policies and procedures are an essential part of the smooth running of your business. Ensuring you have a clear and easy-to-access set of policies will help your employees feel more secure. In addition, a strong set of workplace policies will help employees understand that your processes are fair and balanced.
Consider what type of policies will be most beneficial for your business, and feel free to lean on other HR teams during your writing process. Writing the best workplace policies may take time and money now, but they’re well worth it as they’ll benefit the business in the long run.