The rules and norms governing the workplace are changing and employee manuals need to reflect the shifts that are happening. Having well-written and up-to-date workplace policies is more than a good business practice. It also helps put you on firm legal footing. Nowadays, this means addressing gender equality issues, remote working arrangements, technology use, and drug and gun law matters. Let’s take a closer look at the workplace policies every conscientious business should cover.
Building a Foundation: What to Include
First, the basics. At a minimum, your written workplace policies should cover certain fundamentals, such as:
- Employee attendance and paid time off (including accrual or payouts of unused time)
- Sick leave (including what your business will do if there’s a major outbreak or pandemic like the influenza virus or most recently the COVID-19 crisis)
- Company holidays (paid or unpaid)
- Bereavement leave
- Family and medical leave (if applicable)
- Regular and overtime pay
- Working hours and breaks
- Dress codes (if applicable)
- Rules of conduct (such as taking personal calls or using cell phones)
Specify the consequences for policy infractions and how to request time off or apply for benefits. In addition to these basic policies, you’ll want to make sure your company policies address some important workplace trends.
Trending Policy Issues to Address
Consider adding workplace policies in these 10 key areas:
- Remote Workers Policy
These days it’s common for some employees to work from home or remotely. But it may not be appropriate for all workers. Be sure you have a policy that outlines who is eligible for remote working arrangements and what the limitations and expectations are. Ensure your policy avoids discrimination and enables you to end the ability to work remotely if necessary.
- BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Policy
In today’s workplace, many employees use their own cell phones, tablets and laptops both on and off the job. While allowing employees to bring their own devices can reduce costs, it also creates potential security and legal compliance concerns. Protect your company with a well-written policy that outlines the boundaries or security features you require, as well as procedures when employment ends.
- Social Media Policy
Protect your company’s reputation and legal status by creating a social media policy that empowers your employees to share messages in a positive way while avoiding potential problems. For example, outline what is permitted (such as sharing new product photos or images from a company event) as well as what is not (such as pre-launch details, internal strategies or controversial political comments). Establish when social media for personal use is allowed, what information is considered confidential, the brand guidelines for discussing company products or services, and rules of etiquette.
- Confidentiality Policy
A company confidentiality policy helps protect customer data, trade secrets, procedures and information about new products or services. Confidentiality policies might cover personal or proprietary data, prototypes, software, drawings, systems, methods, internal and external communications, and test results. In sensitive industries, you may need to ask employees to sign a confidentiality, non-disclosure or non-compete agreement.
- Drug and Alcohol Policy
With new laws in many states that legalize marijuana for medicinal or recreational use, your drug use policies may need updating. A drug-free workplace policy should strictly prohibit the sale, possession and use of illegal drugs or alcohol when an employee is on the job. It should specify the types of forbidden substances and conduct as well as the consequences for violating the policy. If you have any drug-testing procedures in place, such as random testing, for-cause testing or post-accident testing, be sure you define them clearly.
- Weapons/Workplace Violence Policy
Even in states where concealed-carry weapons are legal, employers can prohibit employees from carrying weapons into the workplace premises or making threats against other employees. In fact, under OSHA and various state laws, you are obligated to protect employees from workplace violence. Be specific in your policy and define what actions are restricted — from verbal threats to shoving — as well as the types of weapons not allowed on work premises, such as knives, guns or other firearms. Keep in mind that, in many states, firearms are allowed in locked vehicles in the parking lot, regardless of workplace restrictions.
- Anti-Discrimination/Anti-Harassment Policy
Several federal laws require employers to protect workers from workplace harassment and discrimination. Today, this goes beyond the traditional language that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin or gender, and it may include sexual orientation, gender identity or age as well. Make sure your employees know that discrimination is illegal when you’re hiring, providing job assignments or offering promotions. Clearly define the types of actions that are considered discrimination or harassment (including sexual harassment) and what your policies for infractions are. Include specific provisions for how to report behavior that violates your policies and a statement that ensures reporting such behavior is protected.
- Workplace Accommodations for Disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requires companies with 15 or more employees to provide certain accommodations for workers with disabilities to allow them to perform their jobs. Make sure your company policy defines disabilities and states your intent to comply with all applicable laws under the ADA. Spell out how requests for accommodations should be made, including what information you require (such as any medical records) and to whom requests should be submitted.
- Disaster or Severe Weather Policy
Severe weather or natural disasters, ranging from hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and fires, can happen nearly everywhere. Be sure you have a policy to let employees know what to expect in case of an emergency. Detail how you will communicate instructions and what the chain of command would be if your main office is closed.
- Family Leave Policy
A family leave policy doesn’t just consist of what you’d like to offer your staff — you also need comply with federal and state regulations . When creating your family leave policies, it’s important to avoid gender bias and offer leave equally to all sexes.
More than 30 states allow medical marijuana use
and 19 states, plus Washington D.C., permit recreational use.
Put Your Policies in Writing
Although federal and state laws don’t require you to create an employee handbook or put all your policies in writing, doing so makes sound legal sense. An online company policies or employee handbook tool is a smart way to keep your rules and guidelines accessible. In addition, outlining your workplace policies in writing helps:
- Establish boundaries and prevent misunderstandings
- Reduce HR time spent managing questions about what is allowed
- Create consistency in how requests and benefits are handled
- Provide legal protections if your practices are ever challenged in court
Organize Company Policies Easily
Staying on top of workplace policies can be easy when you choose the right solution. HRdirect offers two options the State-Specific HR Policies Library or the Company Policies Smart App. Both options are consistently monitored by our HR experts to ensure you are always in the best position to address emerging issues. Plus, both solutions also allow you to create and edit policies as necessary to develop a custom handbook that meets your company's needs.