As a smaller employer, you might think that workplace policies are only required for the large corporates. However with small businesses increasingly subject to unfair dismissal and adverse action claims, implementing workplace policies could well prevent adverse actions or at least mitigate the impact.
A good time for action
The start of a new year often gives us the chance to reflect on the year just gone and to plan for the year ahead. It can present an excellent opportunity for employers to get around to doing tasks that often get put aside when things are busy. Why not think about setting or reviewing workplace policies at this time of year? Policies set the framework for expected employee behaviour and performance and where necessary, the consequences of not complying with their responsibilities.
Although, not all workplace issues require a policy, you should consider having policies for fundamental issues that could expose your business to legal disputes. Among other things consider: antidiscrimination and equal opportunity, code of conduct, anti-bullying, sexual harassment, privacy, drug and alcohol use, and OH&S issues.
For a workplace policy to be effective, it must be publicised and provided to both new and existing staff members. A policy should set out its purpose, why it was developed and who it applies to. It should clearly outline acceptable and, in some cases, prohibited behaviour, and may include the consequences for breaching the policy. All policies need to be kept current. Be sure to regularly review and update policies where necessary.
Policies must be fully available to all employees and you might consider a sign off or maybe an email response from staff to acknowledge their awareness and understanding.
We would also recommend that you consider documenting a complaints management process. For many HR related issues, you need to define the steps and processes in advance to ensure your business meets its obligations, protects itself and looks after your staff.
You are in the best position to determine which policies are appropriate for your business. No two organisations are the same. But well written and publicised policies serve to protect both you, your business and your staff.