Reasons for having written policies
Number of reasons
There are a number of good reasons for having written workplace policies in place. Not the least of these is the fact that workplace policies are useful documents to rely on when a legal dispute arises between an employer and an employee. In many cases, where the employer can point to a policy to show that the employee ought to have known what his or her responsibilities were in relation to the disputed matter, the employer is likely to be in a much stronger position before a court or tribunal.
Other reasons for putting policies in place are explained below.
Some employment related laws include a requirement that a policy be in place and that the policy fulfil certain specifications. For example, occupational health and safety laws require employers to put in place a rehabilitation policy outlining the responsibilities of the employer. Where no policy is in place this will constitute an offence under the legislation. In other areas of the law, such as equal opportunity, there is no specific requirement in the legislation that policies be put in place. However, where an employer can point to a policy, that will go some way towards substantiating the employer’s compliance with the law should the matter arise before a court or tribunal. To this end many organisations have policies on EEO, workplace harassment and grievance handling procedures.
Policies that are required by the law, either directly or indirectly, serve the function of stating in the least what the minimum legal rights and responsibilities of both the employer and the employees are. This gives employees a clear indication of what is expected of them and what they can expect from their employer. Some employers choose to have policies which set a standard higher than that required under the law.
Codes of conduct
Many companies introduce policies relating to matters that are not regulated by law, but which are based on standards set by the employer in an effort to ensure a high standard of behaviour in the workplace. Such policies usually deal with employees’ behaviour at work, including the way employees relate to each other, as well as their responsibilities towards the employer and to company property. Setting policies in these areas again indicates to employees the standard of behaviour that is expected of them at work and what the consequences of a breach will be.
Policies can deal with such matters as: fighting, language, dress standards, alcohol, drugs, smoking, confidentiality, other employment, maintaining the workplace, borrowing of company property, theft, and statements to media.
Conditions of employment
There are a whole range of conditions of employment that may not be prescribed by law but which are agreed to by the employer and the employee at the commencement of the employment contract. Some companies issue policies on such matters so that employees are clear on what their rights and responsibilities are.
Conditions of employment which may fall within this category include: attendance, absenteeism, punctuality, transfer, training, promotion, probation, performance review, discipline, abandonment of employment, exit interviews, notice, and termination.
It is useful to develop policies on employee entitlements which are prescribed by award or legislation so that employees and human resources staff are easily able to ascertain what the entitlements are.
Policies included within this category will include annual leave, long service leave, bereavement leave, parental leave, carer’s leave, jury leave, special leave, overtime, shift work etc.
Some companies provide a whole range of benefits that employees enjoy as part of their job. These are often not prescribed by legislation or award but are provided by the employer for the benefit of employees – sometimes as incentives aimed at increasing productivity. Other benefits are provided with the idea of increasing employee morale. These can relate to such things as employee health, or assisting employees to balance work and family responsibilities. It is important to clarify how such benefits are awarded to employees in a company policy in order to ensure that all employees know of their availability, they are distributed fairly, and that any conditions applying are understood.
Employee benefits which fall into this category and which should be included in policies include: company cars, mobile phones, employee assistance programs, salary packaging, career breaks, and study assistance.
Sourced from www.workplaceinfo.com.au