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15 Essential HR Policies
Today’s workplaces are changing, and workplace policies need to reflect the shifts that are occurring. Addressing the latest trends by updating employee policies and manuals can help set clear boundaries, prevent misunderstandings in the workplace, and ultimately protect your business.
What is the Function of HR Policies?
Human Resource (HR) policies are meant to provide frameworks for an organization, within which consistent decisions can be made, and through which equity in the way people are treated can be promoted. The implementation of strong HR policies can help an organization demonstrate, both internally and externally, that it meets the requirements for diversity, ethics, and training required in today’s workplace, and meets its commitments regarding regulation and corporate governance of employees.
HR policies set out obligations, standards of behavior and document disciplinary procedures (among many other things). Their specific function can vary widely, including but not limited to:
- Providing clear communication between an organization and its employees regarding their condition of employment.
- Forming a basis for treating all employees fairly and equally.
- Setting and managing employee expectations.
- Establishing guidelines for supervisors and managers.
- Forming a basis for developing the employee handbook.
- Communicating the organization’s goals and values.
- Creating a basis for regularly reviewing possible changes that affect employees.
- Providing a ‘how-to’ on how to apply policies across all levels of an organization.
- Forming a context for various programs, such as supervisor training programs and employee onboarding and orientation programs.
- Ensuring all policies are aligned to legal requirements and best practices.
- Creating a common and healthy working environment.
- Giving a clear picture of career growth in the organization.
Why Is It Important to Have Defined HR Policies in Place?
Defined HR policies in the workplace should be a principle objective for any Human Resource department. In a 2018 Small Business Compliance Survey conducted by Comply, it was found that while 84% of businesses offered employee handbooks and formal written policies, and 85% required its employees to acknowledge receipt of these policies, there were some essential policies not stipulated clearly within the workplace. For example, 56% of these small businesses did not have a formal weapons policy in the workplace, and 47% did not have a social media policy.
Modern workplaces should not have employee manuals that only cover a handful of the key issues in the workplace. With the constantly changing and modernizing the workplace, HR policies should be able to reflect the shifts that are occurring. The importance of keeping current, ethical, and effective HR policies can be outlined as follows:
- HR policies ensure every employee of an organization is looked after; their needs are respected, and proper benefits are made available to them for their work.
- HR policies help to address complaints, problems, and grievances of employees, and outline how to solve them appropriately.
- They help protect employees from the ramifications of colleagues’ poor behavior and even from the organization itself.
- They help to train and develop employees who are consistent with the needs of the organization.
- They help employees receive adequate and fair compensation.
- They help to maintain discipline in the workplace, and
- They provide paid vacations and holidays to eligible employees.
15 Essential HR Policies
Before establishing HR policies in your organization, you must first be aware of any regional laws relating to employee policies. Some may require employers to communicate workplace information to employees in writing. In the absence of specific stipulations such as this one, employers should implement policies that fill in the gaps, such as a policy that communicates company expectations and benefits.
The contents of your organization’s handbook will depend on a number of factors, including the organization’s size, location, and industry. There are several policies that all organizations should include in their handbook, some of which are outlined first. However, depending on your business, you may also need to include any number of the listed “trending” company policies for employees in your employee handbook.
9 Must-Have HR Policies
1. At-Will Employment Policy
This policy reiterates that both an employer and employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, providing said reason is lawful. You should aim to prominently display this statement in the beginning of your employee handbook.
2. Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy
These policies prohibit harassment and discrimination from taking place in the workplace. These are always governed by federal, state, and local provisions, so it is important to review the applicable laws and account for all the appropriate protections when stipulating this policy.
3. Sexual Harassment Policy
Especially in the modern workplace, sexual harassment is a high-profile concern. Informing and educating employees through an up-to-date sexual harassment policy is critical, and some regions may even require that your organization have one in place. Safeguard your company by clearly communicating zero-tolerance guidelines for unwanted, unwelcome, or inappropriate sexual comments or actions.
4. Employment Classifications Policy
It is an HR best practice to clearly define employment classifications. This can include full-time, part-time, exempt, or non-exempt. These can dictate their eligibility for benefits and overtime pay, so it should be a principle policy to clearly stipulate all employee classifications.
5. Leave and Time-Off Benefits Policy
These policies should address your organization’s rules and procedures regarding holidays, vacation, sick, and all other types of time off benefits. It should also cover leave required by law, such as voting leave, family leave, and domestic violence leave. Review your regional laws to ensure all leave requirements are included in your HR policies.
6. Meal and Break Periods Policy
A clear policy on meal and break periods ensures employees are well-informed on the frequency and duration of said breaks, as well as any additional rules or restrictions relating to them. Regional laws may stipulate specifications relating to lactation breaks, rest periods, and meal periods, so ensure your policies align with those.
7. Timekeeping and Pay Policy
A timekeeping policy keeps employees informed of the appropriate method for recording their time worked, as well as the importance of accurately recording their time. Policies on pay periods communicate the frequency of paydays to employees, the methods available for receiving payment, and any special procedures that may take place should a payday fall on a holiday or when the employee is absent from work.
8. Safety and Health Policy
These policies describe the safety and emergency procedures of the workplace and require employees to report any work-related injuries immediately. There are several regulations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act that require employers to have specific policies in place if certain workplace hazards exist. For example, if certain chemicals are present in the workplace, a company should have a hazard communication program as part of their health and safety policy.
9. Employee Conduct, Attendance, and Punctuality Policy
Attendance policies clearly communicate when employees must be ready to work, stipulating their scheduled start time each day and providing procedures for informing their supervisors of unscheduled absences or late arrivals.
6 Trending HR Policies
1. Weapons in the Workplace Policy (or Zero Tolerance for Workplace Violence)
Employers have an obligation to protect employees from all forms of workplace violence, including physical violence, harassment, intimidation, and even disruption. Addressing weapons and violence policies can be combined into your general harassment or safety policies or can be communicated on their own.
Some questions to address in a weapons in the workplace policy include:
- What conduct are you aiming to prohibit?
- What items are considered weapons?
- What disciplinary measures do you want in place?
Your weapons in the workplace policy should comply with regional laws, including posting requirements and privacy laws, should list specific examples of prohibited violent conduct, and should explain responsibilities under your workplace violence-prevention plan.
2. Remote Workers Policy
Many modern workplaces are allowing more and more of their employees to work remotely from home, or some other location outside the main office. However, not all jobs and employees are well-suited for remote work, so it is important to clarify your organization’s position on remote work itself.
Questions to address in a remote worker policy include:
- Who is eligible for remote work?
- Are there any limitations on remote work?
- How will you monitor remote workers?
Your remote workers’ policy should comply with any regional laws, should have a specific time and pay policy for remote workers, and should stipulate your right to end the ability to work remotely at any time.
3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy
As more employees begin to use their own devices for business, including phones, laptops, and tablets, privacy and security matters need to be taken into consideration. There are also concerns of any personal devices being lost or stolen. A policy relating to the use of personal devices should be a part of any modern workplace.
Questions to address in a BYOD policy include:
- What personal devices will you allow employees to use?
- How will you monitor personal devices?
- What limitations or security features will you require?
Your personal device policy should comply with any applicable regional laws, establish a procedure for end of employment, and include any applicable risks or liabilities associated with the use of personal devices for business matters.
4. Social Media Policy
A social media policy can be what protects your company’s reputation, both online and beyond. Despite its relatively modern nature, you should still draft this policy to withstand scrutiny from your regional labor relations board.
Questions to address in a social media policy for the workplace include:
- Do you need a policy for both business and personal social media use?
- What guidelines need to be established?
- How will you control social media use at work?
Your social media policy should also list the specific confidential information that should never be shared on social media and explain the disciplinary measures for social media policy violations.
5. Drug and Alcohol Policy
Due to the expanding laws legalizing marijuana use, drug and alcohol policies are becoming more and more relevant to the modern workplace. Aim to keep in mind any regional laws relating to specific substances when drafting this policy.
Questions to address in a drug and alcohol in the workplace policy include:
- What substances will be prohibited?
- What testing procedures do you want in place?
- What are your disciplinary measures for policy violations?
6. Updated Confidentiality Policy
Broader policies that require employees to keep all information confidential are no longer effective. Due to the changing nature of how information gets shared, it is important to be specific in your confidentiality policies, excluding any items that a labor board may not deem private, such as wages and working conditions.
Questions to address in a confidentiality policy include:
- What are your organization needs to remain confidential?
- What confidentiality parameters do you want to set?
- What are the consequences of violating this policy?
Your confidentiality policy should provide specific examples of the confidential material in question, list employee obligations (e.g., not discussing confidential information over unsecured networks), and comply with any applicable regional laws.
Your Organization Needs Effective HR Policies
Just like societies need laws to establish order and common understandings, all businesses need strong and effective HR policies. Regardless of your company’s size, location, or industry, HR issues will inevitably arise, and require you to dispel time and energy away from other business activities in order to address them. Having a strong set of HR policies in place can help alleviate this load, systematically setting expectations for performance and growth and carving a pattern of disciplinary measures and operational guidelines to keep employees on track towards success.