Policies and Procedures for Employers

Peters Bosel Lawyers have significant expertise in drafting or reviewing businesses policies and procedures.

Policies and Procedures for Employers

Peters Bosel Lawyers have significant expertise in drafting or reviewing businesses policies and procedures.

How to Make the Best Policies and Procedures for your Business

In the modern workplace, a document containing a clear expression of the policies and procedures which govern your business and its operation is a crucial part of being an effective and fair employer.

Having a regime of quality policies and procedures is attractive to both quality executives targeted for employment and to prospective purchasers of a business.

Setting out the responsibilities, behaviours and conduct expected of your employees, as well as detailing their rights, is a sensible response to the fact that much of what now happens in the workplace is subject to legal regulation.  Other parts of a company policy document will be specific to your business, perhaps reflecting the unique characteristics of your industry.

Some of the areas we recommend should be covered by such a document include: workplace health and safety issues; bullying, harassment and discrimination; complaint and investigation process; assessment of employee performance; recruitment; appropriate use of internet, email and social media; travel policies; employee leave; confidentiality; conduct when dealing with external clients; drug and alcohol use; discipline and termination.

Peters Bosel Lawyers have significant expertise in drafting or reviewing businesses policies and procedures which can best protect your business and to make sure it is clear in terms of obligations on employees, compliance with relevant legislation, and ease of use in allowing managers to confidently deal with any issues. We can also act for your business in the unfortunate event of legal proceedings resulting from a serious breach of company policy.

Key Reasons for Policies and Procedures

A good document is a clear and concise expression of a company’s key policies as they relate to employees, most importantly on the role of relevant workplace legislation, including how complaints and grievances are handled.

Having appropriate policies and procedures is an important potential defence for an employer if there is a later issue with an employee such as, for example, discrimination.

Other important reasons for well a constructed policies and procedures document include:

  • a clear expression of what is expected of employees in terms of both their performance and behaviour, perhaps expressed as a Code of Conduct;
  • being part of an orientation or induction package for new employees;
  • a reference on company hierarchy and decision-making guidelines so that employees do not have to continually refer to senior managers;
  • a statement that employees will be treated equally and fairly;
  • a guide to the company’s complaints-handling process, necessary to avoid claims of bias or victimisation;
  • a protection to the employer from legal exposure to any claims that you have breached employment legislation, e.g. in relation to discrimination, bullying, health and safety, unfair dismissal, privacy and online behaviour; and
  • demonstrating compliance with key ongoing obligations, for the employer, its directors, officers, and management (eg WH&S).

Some businesses will also have policies and procedures which will provide even more specific detail on workplace issues, from job designs and descriptions to use of office equipment, smoking, toilet breaks and more.

Should company policies be part of a contract of employment?

Employers need to consider whether company policies and procedures are incorporated into a contract of employment, particularly for executives and managers.

An employment contract can either limit or unintentionally broaden an employer’s obligations with the inclusion of company policies.  We usually recommend that policies and procedures do NOT form part of the terms and conditions of employment.  For example, when there is an unfair dismissal issue and the employer has not strictly followed its own procedures the employer can be exposed.

Where policies are referred to in an employment contract, there is the possibility a court could determine that those policies are contractually binding in any later dispute.  While employment contracts often include a general statement that “company policies do not form part of the employment contract” employers should take care that excluding policies from the contract is not undermined by other specific terms in the contract which could imply the incorporation of policies. It should be made clear to an employee that policies are a guide or reasonable directions only.

Whether your intention is for a broad document which both covers you legally and is a transparent statement of policies for employees, or a more specific guide to every element of the work environment, consultation with an experienced employment lawyer about the drafting and implementation of the document is always advisable.

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