What is a workplace policy?
A workplace policy is a statement issued to employees that sets out clear workplace expectations, procedures, and behaviours. A policy will typically provide a series of guidelines that outlines how certain organisational issues will be dealt with.
The difference between a workplace policy and an employment contract
Unlike an employment contract which sets out terms and conditions of employment and is a legally binding document, a policy itself isn’t contractually binding. A policy can, however, tie into matters that have legal repercussions e.g. termination procedures.
Whilst employment contracts are individual to an employee, workplace policies will usually apply to an entire business or department. Once finalised, an employment contract can only be varied with the consent of the other party. With workplace policies, an employer is able to exercise some discretion in varying the details without agreement from its employees. For this reason, it is recommended that policies and employment contracts are kept as separate documents and are clearly distinguishable.
Policies that demonstrate legal obligations
Policies are important tools in demonstrating that your business has met certain legal requirements. The below policies are underpinned by legislation and should be implemented to help demonstrate certain legal obligations:
Whistle Blower Policy
All public and large proprietary companies are required to have a Whistle Blower Policy in place to ensure any concerns raised regarding misconduct or improper state of affairs are dealt with effectively, securely, appropriately, and in accordance with the Corporations Act 2001.
In the ACT and NSW, there is specific strict legislation that deals with surveillance of employees in the workplace. The Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 states that you cannot carry out computer surveillance without first having a policy in place.
Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) Policy
Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, employers have a duty of care to ensure that they provide their employees with a safe working environment. This is best demonstrated through a comprehensive Work Health & Safety Policy that sets out the measures you have put in place to safeguard your workers and how your organisation will address safety issues should they arise.
Other important policies to implement
Code of Conduct
This Code establishes the standards of behaviour that must be met by all employees. Examples of topics that can be outlined in a Code of Conduct are standards around punctuality, company property, compliance and public statements or comments about the company.
Discipline & Termination Policy
This policy should aim to provide employees and management with an understanding of the procedures that may be followed in certain circumstances of performance and conduct management. It should provide guidance on the organisation’s formal disciplinary and termination processes and should work in conjunction with other policies such as Grievance Handling Policy and EEO Policy.
Domestic & Family Violence Policy
The purpose of this policy is to support the retention, safety and well-being of staff affected by family and domestic violence. The policy should detail the rights and responsibilities of employees experiencing family and domestic violence, the duty of care responsibilities of the company and the range of ways employees can seek and receive assistance as a result of experiencing family and domestic violence.
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Policy
By effectively implementing an Equal Employment Opportunity & Anti-Discrimination Policy, you will attract and retain talented employees and create a positive working environment for staff. The policy should outline employee rights and responsibilities and detail what is deemed unacceptable workplace conduct
Grievance Handling Policy
This Grievance Handling Policy should outline the procedure employees should follow to try and resolve a grievance within the workplace. The policy should also outline the steps the company will take to resolve a grievance if a formal complaint is made.
Alcohol & Drugs Policy
This policy should outline the organisation’s stance on the use of drugs and alcohol within the workplace and illustrate the consequences of breaching the policy. The aim of the policy is to ensure that the workplace is ensuring the health, safety, respect and productivity of all its employees.
Workplace Anti-Bullying Policy
Workplace bullying has a detrimental effect on a company and its people. It can create an unsafe working environment, result in a loss of workers, cause the breakdown of teams and reduce efficiency and productivity. This Anti-Bullying Policy should outline a minimum standard of behaviour that is required by all employees that aims to be respectful of all workers.
This policy will set out employees’ entitlements to leave and the way leave must be requested by employees. Employees’ leave entitlements as outline under the National Employment Standards, however employers may want to provide further information around procedures for requesting leave and other organisational benefits such as a paid parental scheme.
Internet, Phone & Email Policy
This policy is designed to set down minimum standards regarding mobile phone, telephone and internet use for all employees during their employment with the Company. Inappropriate use of mobile, telephone and internet at work decreases productivity, causes security risks, distracts co-workers and colleagues, and can cause significant expense to a business.
The importance of workplace policies
Workplace policies will help to safeguard your organisation from risk and will and minimise both legal and safety risks for your business. Having clear and concise policies in place that are well communicated to your staff will ensure that your employees clearly understand what is expected of them at work and how they should behave. Policies should outline the potential consequences if these standards are not met (eg. any disciplinary action) and should illustrate any key company protocols for your employees to follow.
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The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.