When it comes to workplace investigations, an organisation’s employee policy is one of the most essential tools an investigator has. It provides a set of expectations for employee behaviour that they can use to navigate the complexities of an issue, determine potential misdemeanours and ensure that everyone is treated fairly and without bias. The policy manual also protects the company from lawsuits or claims and helps ensure transparency and consistency across all workplace investigations. This makes it crucial for every organisation, large or small, to have established an employee policy manual and regularly ensure it complies with changes to new or updated legislation.
Reasons why you need an employee policy manual
An employee policy manual serves many purposes and provides advantages in different aspects of employee management. Below are some of the many ways your organisation will benefit from establishing and maintaining an employee policy manual.
- Employee expectations
The employee policy manual provides workers with a guide to the standards that the organisation expects from them in terms of their conduct, performance and responsibilities. It breaks down internal processes and procedures into a more digestible form that employees can turn to when they need assistance with a range of issues such as taking time off, addressing discrimination and harassment or handling data threats.
2. Communicating company policies
The policies of a company need to be understood by an employee before they can comply with them. However, many policy documents go unread by workers – an employee policy manual helps bridge the gap between a policy on paper and one that employees understand how to work with. Essentially, it increases the efficiency of an organisation’s ability to effectively communicate important information to employees on internal processes.
3. Compliance with legislation
Every organisation must ensure that its policies, processes, and operations are aligned with legal requirements and that it meets the obligations of all relevant litigation. An employee policy manual is a valuable tool for demonstrating an organization’s commitment to compliance. By outlining the rules, regulations, and standards that employees must adhere to, the manual serves as evidence that the organisation is taking steps to ensure that its operations are lawful and ethical.
4. Legal defence
Although employers hope to avoid legal disputes, lawsuits and claims are a reality of running a business. In such situations, the employee policy manual can prove invaluable to investigators and lawyers seeking to understand the culture, values, and standards of an organization.
The manual outlines the expectations and responsibilities of employees, providing evidence of the employer’s commitment to maintaining a safe, respectful, and inclusive work environment. By clearly communicating policies and procedures, the manual can also help to reduce the risk of legal issues arising in the first place.
5. Employee guide
Employees also use policies to guide how they work and the actions they take when issues arise. When they are dealing with potential problems or have queries they want to clarify, an employee policy manual is a great source of helpful information. It can provide them with multiple options or paths to take, giving employees the flexibility to choose the most appropriate course of action.
Additionally, having several designated individuals or resources for support allows employees to seek additional help within the organisation if they are not satisfied with the decisions made by one party.
What should you include in your employee policy manual?
Every worker will have a different perspective on what they consider to be appropriate workplace behaviour based on their diverse backgrounds and experiences. As such, it’s important for employers to establish clear expectations for conduct and educate employees on what is expected of them. An employee policy manual can serve as a useful tool for this purpose, providing a framework for promoting consistency and ensuring that all employees are on the same page.
Although the content of employee handbooks will vary depending on the nature of the business, there are certain elements that should be included in every manual. This includes a reflection of the current company culture, workplace policies and procedures, company expectations, standards of behaviour, and key onboarding information. Additionally, employers may choose to include policies specific to their industry or business (i.e. shiftwork policies)
By providing employees with a comprehensive handbook that addresses all relevant policies and procedures, employers can establish a common understanding of what is expected in the workplace. This can help to promote a positive and respectful work environment, where all employees feel valued and supported.
The employee policy manual is only useful if it is effectively communicated to all employees. Simply providing a copy of the manual to new hires is not enough; it is important to ensure that they have a comprehensive understanding of the policies and procedures outlined within it.
One approach to achieving this is to incorporate the manual into the onboarding process so that employees have the opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification as needed. This not only ensures that employees are aware of the policies and procedures that are in place, but it also helps to foster a culture of open communication and transparency within the organisation.
What you choose to include in the manual will largely depend on the size of your organisation, the specific industry you operate in, and your preferred communication style. However, regardless of your approach, it is advisable to cover certain issues in your policy manual, such as:
- Welcome message and onboarding information for new hires
- Company history, values, and culture
- Objectives, goals, and mission statement
- Standards of conduct and ethics for all employees
- Workplace safety and security policies
- Internet, email and social media policy
- Formal and informal grievance resolution process
- Work hours, overtime, and break policies
- Leave policies, including vacation and sick leave
- Performance expectations and evaluations
- Disciplinary action policy for misconduct or underperformance
- Guidelines on the appropriate use of company technology and property
- Confidentiality and data protection policies
- Opportunities for professional development and training
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion policies
- Anti-harassment, discrimination, and retaliation policies
- Parental leave policies and procedures
- Performance improvement plan process
- Termination and resignation procedures
- Remote work policies and expectations.
Updating employee policy manuals
Updating the employee policy manual is crucial to ensure that it reflects the current operations of the workplace. Changes can arise due to various reasons such as internal adjustments, legislative modifications or new policies and the manual should not be treated as a one-time document.
Employers can also organise training sessions or meetings to explain any updates and answer any questions from employees. It’s also important to ensure they have easy access to the latest version of the policy manual to ensure that they can refer to it when needed. This can be done by making the manual available on the company intranet or through hard copies kept in a central location. Keep in mind that employees must also understand that the policy manual is subject to change and that it is not a part of their employment contract.
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To conclude, employee policy manuals are an important tool for employers, investigators and employees alike. It serves as a guide to the organisation’s values, expectations and processes for dealing with a wide range of issues. Ensuring that you maintain a thorough, informative and updated employee policy manual will enable your organisation to make sure its policies and processes are communicated clearly and effectively to all stakeholders.