Key Workplace Policies & Procedures

Posted by

Samantha Owen

on 03 Aug 2022

Workplace policies are vital in ensuring employees know both the expectations of their employer and the rights and protections to which they are entitled.

Key Workplace Policies & Procedures

Although policies are valuable to employers and employees, a large proportion of employers don't have them in place or where they have them; the documents are not used and have become outdated. Getting policies in place is a worthwhile exercise but can seem like an intimidating task.

Putting policies & procedures in place

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Why you need company policies & procedures

Having a set of corporate policies and procedures in place is important to any organisation, regardless of size.

Having written policies in place helps:

  • provide a roadmap for day-to-day operations and matters in the workplace.
  • ensure that the company is compliant with employment laws and regulations from time to time.
  • managers feel confident about the next steps when if they manage a team. Clear and helpful policies help to ensure all line managers act in the same way, in line with streamlined internal processes.
  • assist in clarifying and reinforcing standards expected of employees in all their professional dealings and explains what is and is not acceptable in the workplace.
  • ensure consistency, and in turn, reduce the risk of employees claiming they've been treated inequitably or that they have been discriminated against.
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How to decide what company policies you need

Whilst it can seem like a lot of work to get these policies in place, they will be hugely beneficial once you have them.

Not having the correct corporate policies and effective HR planning can create future HR problems. This can have a negative effect in that it impacts the productivity of your team, can lead to potential claims and have a negative financial impact on the company.

Regulators expect all companies to have some essential corporate policies in place. They require these policies to be enforced as well as outlined and made easily accessible to all staff. 

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What are mandatory company policies?

Starting to pull together policies and procedures can seem daunting, as there are so many that you can have. This is something you can introduce all in one go in a Staff Handbook, or you can focus on what's most important and build on the bank of policies bit by bit.

If you're taking this latter approach, the best place to start is with the mandatory policies which an employer must have in place. These policies are as follows:

A. Disciplinary Procedure

All employees must be provided with a contract/statement of the particulars of their employment within a month of their employment. This document is required under Section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The Act requires that there is a reference to any disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures within this section 1 document. The disciplinary policy will set out the proper, fair procedure which will be followed in instances of disciplinary action, which is central to the law on unfair dismissal.

B. Grievance Procedure

As above, the ERA 1996 requires that a company references their grievance procedure in the section 1 statement provided to employees. The grievance procedure provides a clear mechanism for raising complaints formally. Having the policy not only makes sure you've complied with your legal obligation but also sets out clear ways for your employees to communicate complaints and concerns and sets out clearly how the company will handle them.

C. Health & Safety Policy

Mandatory if you have more than five employees. The policy has the aim of protecting workers from harm while at work. This includes protection from physical harm as well as from potential health complications resulting from their work. Having the policy in place has moral benefits whilst also protecting an employer from a financial and legal point of view.

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Key non-mandatory company policies

Once those are in place, the following policies are all recommended as they bring with them clear benefits to both employer and employee:

1. Bullying & harassment policy

This is a really important policy, setting clear lines about what will not be tolerated by an employer and the process which will be followed should complaints of this nature be made.

2. Data protection policy

Data protection policies demonstrate the company's commitment to ensuring the protection and privacy of personal data. If a company is subject to compliance audits or experiences a data breach, then its data protection policy can be presented as evidence demonstrating the company's commitment to data protection principles to mitigate any penalties.

3. Maternity/paternity/adoption policy

This policy sets out expectations of employees wanting to take these types of leave and the payments they would receive whilst on leave.

4. Whistleblowing policy

Having this policy will help encourage openness within the workplace by showing staff that the business and management will not only act in the event of wrongdoing but will also protect anyone blowing the whistle. The policy will also establish a clear procedure to follow where a complaint is made, so the process is transparent.

5. Annual leave policy

Having a clear process for how to request annual leave and who will grant it will help ensure consistency in dealing with requests.

6. Flexible working policy

Now that employees have a statutory right to request flexible working arrangements, requests are on the rise. Having a flexible working policy helps ensure that requests are dealt with fairly, by setting out the qualifying criteria for applications and detailing the process that will be followed to deal with requests.

7. Hybrid working policy

In the past, flexible working predominantly revolved around working hours. Hybrid working instead focuses on the location where an employee works. Covid caused a sea change in the volume of hybrid workers. Having a hybrid working policy helps ensure that both employees and candidates know your company's approach to hybrid working.

8. Social media policy

increasingly, the line between work and private lives is blurred through the use of social media. Having a social media policy, setting out standards expected and what would be deemed to bring the company into disrepute would be helpful.

9. IT & email communications policy

setting out matters such as acceptable use of company laptops and whether there are any rules around using company email accounts for private matters. It can also include rules around ensuring the privacy of company information on laptops when working remotely (including locking laptops and using a privacy screen).

10. Gifts & hospitality policy

Having a policy of this kind ensures that there are clear rules about accepting or giving gifts and hospitality. This is important to protect against the risk of fraud, corruption, bribery and reputational damage.

11. ESG policy

Environmental, social, and governance policies help to provide stakeholders with a documented business approach to ESG issues, i.e. the company's environmental impact, social responsibility and governance.

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Industry-specific company policies

You should also consider any policies specific to your sector or the type of work some of your employees do. This will ensure that the policies you have are of maximum value to you, your business and your employees.

Here are some examples of sector-specific policies:

Working hours policy

For companies employing long-distance drivers, pilots, doctors, train drivers, shift workers etc., a policy around working hours to comply with European driving regulations and tachograph use would be helpful.

Lone-working policy

Where employees work alone visiting service users in their own homes, a policy on lone working would be sensible to set out processes to follow to ensure safety.

Vulnerable customer policy

If the employees work with vulnerable customers/patients, a policy setting out regulatory requirements and/or reporting requirements would be beneficial.

If you are unsure whether a policy should cover something, it is sensible to get legal advice.

How to manage company policy attestations

Having corporate policies is all very well. But you need your staff to understand them and agree to them. If you have many policies or a large workforce, it can become an administrative headache.

There are, however, online tools available, including Skillcast Policy Hub, that can help shoulder the burden of managing policies.

Policy Hub

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