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What is Workplace Policy?

Updated on December 23, 2012
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

Christine McDade is an experienced human resources manager.

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Definition of a Workplace Policy

Organizations implement workplace policies as a sort of framework of company rules for employees to respect during their employment. Essentially a rule, workplace policy exists to give parameters in how employees conduct themselves in the workplace. The Merriam Webster free online dictionary, www.merriam-webster.com, defines the word "policy" as follows:

  1. a. prudence or wisdom in the management of affairs
  2. b. management or procedure based primarily on material interest

In essence, policies are implemented as a sort of guide to create an understanding of what the expectations for employees are in the organization. Having policies in place helps to ensure a more level playing field for all because there will be consistency in the practices when policies are in place for all to respect. When employees know the rules that are in place, they will know what performance behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not. It is then the responsibility of management to enforce the policies in a fair and consistent manner.

Important Policies to Implement in an Organization

Policies can be powerful tools that management refers to when training and counseling employees. Because of their importance in this regard, it will be prudent for employers to include policies that incorporate the following topics:

  1. Workplace Harassment
  2. Equal Employment Opportunity Statement
  3. Hiring/Transfers/Promotions/Demotions
  4. Nepotism
  5. Discipline
  6. Termination
  7. Grievance
  8. Leave of Absence/FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act)
  9. FLSA/ Fair Labor Standards Act
  10. Probationary/Introductory Period
  11. Employment At-Will Statement
  12. Employee Code of Conduct
  13. Sick Leave
  14. Performance Evaluations
  15. Rest and Lunch Breaks
  16. Ethics
  17. Safety

To ensure that policies are effective and nondiscriminatory, policies should be forwarded to an attorney for legal review prior to their implementation.

Proper planning, review and implementation of a work policy will lead to a more effective policy for an organization.
Proper planning, review and implementation of a work policy will lead to a more effective policy for an organization. | Source

Communication is paramount for policy effectiveness.

Policies are useless unless they are implemented consistently, and communicated effectively to all employees. After all, if management is holding employees accountable for following a set of work policies and procedures, it is important to make sure they know what they are, where to find them and who to ask should they have a question. Communicating work policies should begin on the employee's first day of employment with the organization. Employees should be given access to the policies and offered an overview of their purpose. The presentation of policies and their purpose in the organization is often done during new employee orientation. Orientations also provide an opportunity for a question and answer session when the new employee can ask questions about any policy they do not understand.

In addition to new employees, current employees must be made aware of any new policies and/or modifications to existing ones. Employee staff meetings, written memorandums, emails, etc., are good ways to reach out to employees in the workplace. If the new policy describes a new program or benefit that is unfamiliar to the employes, it is also prudent to hold short presentations or training sessions with employees. Communication, in any form, will be an effective implementation tool for management to utilize. Sign off sheets from the employee, which indicates that they have received a copy of the new policy, should be placed in the employee's personnel file for record keeping purposes.

Finally, depending on the existence of unions in the workplace, it is good business practice, as well as a requirement in many bargaining agreements, that management in an organization communicate with union representatives any changes to policies and procedures. Communicating the changes directly to unions representatives will be good business practices to avoid misconceptions should a rule be violated and an employee be disciplined for the violation. By simply communicating regularly with the union, management may be able to foster a good relationship that avoids unnecessary complaints and grievances in the future.

Keep Policies Current and in Observance of Changes to Legislation

For work policies to remain effective, they must be reviewed regularly for relevancy to current events. As employment laws change and evolve to respect American society and the need for social reform, employers should stay on top of legislative issues and changes to regulations as they affect the American workplace. By following the relevant political happenings at the state and federal levels, employers will be exposed to the events that will shape the policies that set the structure of the organization.

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