These days it’s easy for an employer to get overwhelmed by all the documentation that you need to provide to your employees. It’s tempting to throw your arms up in the air and say, “I do the right thing, I’ll be right.” Wrong!
The right document Is a powerful thing
Think of employment documentation as insurance policies. The right documents can keep your business out of trouble, so it’s worth taking advice on what you need.
While it’s vital to use the right documents to outline the terms and conditions of employment, they should be supported by policies and procedures that provide employees with an understanding of expected behaviour and performance standards, while also providing rules and guidelines for management and decision-making.
It is worthwhile understanding the difference between a policy and a procedure:
- A policy outlines boundaries, rules, obligations and entitlements
- A procedure explains how team members should perform their work, conduct themselves, maintain the safety of themselves and others – among other things – in order to be compliant with the company’s policies and expectations of their role.
Developing policies and procedures for your business is not a simple as finding a template on the internet, and adding it to your employment pack as this can land you in hot water. Try to be proactive, not reactive. There are some great, reliable sources to help you understand what you need for your type of business (check the end of this article).
Once developed, you must regularly review your policies, to ensure that they are compliant with any legislative changes and also any changes in your businesses processes. Policies and procedures need to be provided and explained to new and existing employees for them to be effective, enforceable and relied upon in the event of a non-compliance. Ask for written confirmation from your team members that they have read and understood all of the documentation.
The real test of your policies and procedures is when you have to rely on them, in the event of an employee issue – such as inappropriate behaviour, poor performance, or a team member questioning the legality of a policy or procedure. There are many cases where Fair Work have decided in favour of an employee’s claim of unfair dismissal, because of reasons such as: the company’s policies and procedures were contrary to law; not properly communicated; not clear and concise; or were even too specific.
Workplace Safety is another area where businesses have strong legal obligations, and the consequences of not addressing them can be tragic. Workplace Safety manuals are very much industry specific, but workplace-wide issues such as the mental wellbeing of your employees are also critical to address. Stress leave caused by the workplace has the potential to leave you short staffed, impacts your culture but also can mean your Workcover premiums go up significantly.
Bottom line, no employer wants to have a toxic workplace that causes stress. That’s a sure fire way to lose good people, and end up in legal hot water.
What you should be doing
- Research what policies and procedures your business needs to address.
- Ensure policies and procedures are clear, compliant, consistent.
- Make the documents accessible for all team members and get signoff and acknowledgement that they are understood.
- Make it clear what the aim of each policy and procedure is, and to whom it applies to.
- Check that they are compliant with employment and industry legislation, codes, and laws.
- Develop a culture that is based on respect.
What not to do
- Don’t set and forget – the documentation must be regularly reviewed.
- Don’t assume that your team understand the policies and procedures – get confirmation in writing.
- Don’t write policy for policy’s sake – keep it relevant, practical and applicable.
- Don’t be too vague, too specific or ambiguous. Clarity is king.
At FC Business Solutions, we specialise in creating the right documentation for your business, no matter what industry segment you operate within.
But in the meantime, here’s a starting point to give you an idea what a policy manual should look like:
- Business Vic HR policy manual template: Download here