Workplace policies are necessary to protect both the employee and the employer. They aim to set out rules and expectations that many times can prevent harm, conflict, unfairness or imbalances. Some workplace policies are mandatory, usually due to government regulation, while others are optional and aimed to create a better work environment. How many or what kind of workplace policies your business needs depends on many factors such as size, industry and country. What applies to one company may not necessarily apply to your company.

It is also important to remember that while some workplace policies are needed to initiate a business, others can be added later, at different timeframes. Some other important things to note are:

  1. Employees should be introduced to the workplace policies as soon as they join
  2. Workplace policies are living, breathing documents which means they need to be updated 
  3. When updated, employees should be notified and given a new copy
  4. Involving employees in the creation or improvement of workplace policies is beneficial

When creating workplace policies, businesses need to consider which ones are the most relevant for their business and how they can potentially adapt them to become even more relevant. For example, a construction company may prioritise a health and safety policy that it can work on to make it more applicable to the specific business. 

workplace policies

Workplace policies for every business

There are certain criteria that workplace policies should meet to be effective. These include:

  • Track the date the policy was created, reviewed, finalised
  • Explain what the policy is about
  • Have a summary and a scope
  • Clearly include who the policy applies to
  • Set out what counts as acceptable or unacceptable
  • Explain what the response plan is (e.g. consequences, alternative arrangements)

These will create meaningful workplace policies that leave little room for vague language or confusion. The company should also focus on creating mandatory policies as soon as possible. 

Some of the most common workplace policies businesses should develop are:

  • Work health and safety
  • Code of conduct 
  • Discipline and termination policy
  • Grievance policy
  • Drugs and alcohol policy 
  • Social media policy
  • Equal opportunity policy
  • Anti-discrimination and harassment policy

Work health and safety policy

A work health and safety policy is usually mandatory and it involves a range of preventive measures, including but not limited to risk assessments, hazard identification and the implementation of controls to eliminate or minimise risks. The policy focuses on the safety of the employees and promotes employee engagement, increased productivity and organisational well-being as a whole.

To be effective, a work health and safety policy must be tailored to the specific needs and characteristics of the organisation and the employees as mentioned above, taking into account factors such as its industry, workforce demographics and risk profile. The policy should target both physical hazards, such as machinery and equipment, and psychological hazards, such as workplace stress and bullying.

Key elements of a work health and safety policy may include:

  •  A statement that highlights the company’s commitment to protecting the health, safety, and welfare of employees
  • Procedures for identifying and assessing potential risks
  • Training, supervision and response plans
  • Procedures for investigating and reporting workplace accidents and incidents, and for implementing corrective action to prevent future occurrences
  • Steps the business is taking to ensure a safer workplace

These are just the main points, companies will have to include more information that will resolve future issues. Neglecting workplace health and safety can have devastating consequences, including injury, illness and even fatalities. It is essential that every organisation takes this matter seriously and designs a comprehensive policy that addresses most if not all potential issues. 

Code of conduct 

A code of conduct is a set of guidelines and expectations that clearly state what is considered appropriate behaviour in the workplace. These standards ensure that all employees fully understand their responsibilities and obligations. By setting the same expectations for all employees, the business is setting a great example; everyone is treated fairly. 

A code of conduct can cover topics such as attendance, plagiarism, company values, conflict of interest and dress code. It sets out the ethical and moral standards that those in the organisation are expected to follow and outlines specific behaviour that is unacceptable. This can include harassment, discrimination, fraud and other forms of misconduct.

A well-written code of conduct is an essential part of any organisation’s risk management strategy. It helps to prevent legal and reputational damage and promotes a positive culture of trust and respect. To ensure that all employees understand the code of conduct and any questions are answered, managers should include it as part of the induction process or complete any training for potential updates. The code of conduct should be easily accessible, stored somewhere where employees can find it quickly. 

Discipline and termination policy

A Discipline and Termination Policy refers to the disciplinary procedure that needs to follow before an employee is terminated. The disciplinary procedure is targeted to the employees who violate workplace policies, rules or laws that govern the workplace. It involves giving an employee warnings, both verbal and written, retraining, re-allocation and other potential corrective actions. These are implemented with the goal of making termination the last resort and deterring other employees from misconduct.   

Similarly to the other workplace policies, by setting standards for treating employee misconduct, all employees will be given the same treatment, which will allow managers to comply with anti-discrimination laws. It will also prevent potential favouritism rumours and workplace conflict or retaliation. 

Grievance policy

A Grievance policy is referring to employee complaints or concerns and sets out a procedure for employees to submit any forms or informal, anonymous complaints. A strong grievance policy will allow staff to voice the workplace issues they have and lead to a better and more accepting environment where employees are happier. As grievances may sometimes be in relation to upper management, confidentiality is an important part of the policy. A well-written grievance policy should explain:

  • How an employee can submit a grievance
  • What steps they can take 
  • What they can expect after submitting a complaint 
  • How they can escalate an issue 
  • Resolution options (including mediation)
  • How they are protected

A Grievance Policy aims to encourage employees to speak up and not be afraid of retaliation for reporting a problem or an individual. 

Drug and alcohol policy

A Drugs and Alcohol policy refers to a set of rules and guidelines implemented by an organisation to regulate the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. Especially in industries with high levels of risk, such as aviation or construction, the drug and alcohol policy needs to be clear about which substances are banned and what accepted levels of alcohol are. In those industries, if not all, the level is 0.

Drugs that are prohibited from the workplace can be a business decision as long as the drugs are legal. In an ideal scenario, drugs and alcohol would be prohibited or restricted in the workplace. For example, a workplace lunch where employees can drink but not to the point where they are drunk if they have to go back to work. 

The policy should outline the repercussions of violating the policy and the support services available to employees who require assistance with substance abuse. It may also include details about drug testing procedures, confidentiality requirements and disciplinary measures.

The goal of the policy is to keep the workplace safe as well as any customer the employees may interact with during their shift. 

Social media policy

A Social media policy can sometimes be complicated as it is only in the last few years that companies started needing one. A social media policy sets out the expectation in regard to employees using social media while evident that they are related to the company in some way.

This could be because the public will assume that the opinion of the employee is the opinion of the company as a whole. To comply with social media workplace policies, employees have to sometimes indicate in their bio ‘My opinions are my own, not the company’s I work for’ or similar wording to ensure that what they write cannot turn against them. 

The social media policy is focused on protecting the reputation of the company and ensuring that misrepresentation is not taking place. However, it is important to know the limits of such a policy. Using social media where an employee cannot be identified and there is no link to the company may mean no control by the company. Each social media policy is different so organisations must communicate their expectations and guidelines clearly. 

Equal Opportunity policy

An Equal Opportunity policy is in place to promote diversity and inclusion by giving all employees and potential employees a fair and respectful workplace. 

Equal opportunity workplace policies prohibit discrimination based on various characteristics such as age, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and disability. They give all individuals an equal opportunity to get hired, trained, promoted and access to benefits. The policy aims to stop any potential hostility or hateful acts that can prevent a talented individual from succeeding. 

The policy needs to explain what the consequences are if the rules in place are not followed and the actions staff can take if they feel unfairly treated. The policy is only as strong as the people who enforce it. If the companies do not comply by their rules, then it can be ineffective and create potential workplace issues due to employees not feeling valued. 

Anti-discrimination and harassment policy

Workplace policies should discourage any form of discrimination or harassment. Employers have a duty of care towards their employees. This means that they need to ensure the workplace is a safe place where they are protected from any harassment or inappropriate behaviour. An Anti-discrimination and harassment policy should list the characteristics that fall under the Anti-discrimination act, usually including sex, age, sexuality and disability etc. It should give examples of inappropriate behaviour and clearly state the company’s commitment to preventing discrimination or harassment. 

It should include the rights of employees, definitions of discrimination and harassment, and what they can do if they are a victim of misconduct. For this policy, regular training is usually advised as it helps in creating a more diverse, respectful and accepting workplace. The more this policy is enforced, the more productive the workplace will be as there will be many different individuals, with different backgrounds who are not afraid of voicing their ideas. A more productive workplace will also be created due to lower conflict, confrontations and harassment. 

Do you need help with compliance?

Workplace policies need to be reviewed regularly as failure to do so could cause compliance issues.

Workplace policies that are not enforced may as well not be there. It is crucial that employers track compliance and check in regularly to determine what needs to be changed. Polonious helps its clients manage complaints of non-compliance and misconduct and investigate potential issues. We assist in cutting costs as well as administrative time, all aimed at creating a conflict-free environment. If you are looking for an efficient system to help you with workload and automation, reach out!