HR policies and procedures

Human resources (HR) policies and procedures are essential for your workplace. There are laws related to employment and employees that you must understand and comply with. Establish official policies to help ensure you meet legal requirements, reduce risks and protect yourself and your business.

Why you need workplace policies and procedures

Workplace policies and procedures are often developed and used together.

  • Workplace policies are written statements that help to establish a clear understanding of the behaviour and performance standards expected of employers and employees.
  • Workplace procedures are step-by-step instructions for routine tasks. Procedures are often linked to a workplace policy and are designed to help employees implement policies.

Every business should have well-documented policies and procedures. Strong, well-defined policies and procedures can help you:

  • manage legal risks and legal disputes
  • clarify employee rights and expectations
  • make consistent decisions and give clear and consistent responses when dealing with workplace situations
  • outline how complaints and misunderstandings will be dealt with
  • deal with disciplinary or performance management issues
  • ensure employees understand what is acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace
  • efficiently and consistently communicate important information to employees
  • create an informed and effective workforce.

Developing HR policies and procedures

Consider professional help

If you're ready to develop policies and procedures for your business, consider engaging an HR professional for advice and assistance. An HR professional can help you to develop and implement policies and procedures appropriate for your workplace.

Policies and procedures should be lawful and reasonable directions from you to your employees. Remember to tailor the policies and procedures to your workplace. This will ensure you and your business are better protected.

Develop a policy in 5 steps

  1. Identify the need—what is the policy addressing?
  2. Gather information—read about the legal responsibilities relating to the topic and search online for free templates or examples
  3. Draft the policy—it should consider everyone who will use the policy and be
    • clear
    • concise
    • specific
    • simple enough for all involved to understand.
  4. Consult with employees—give employees the opportunity to consider and discuss the implications of the policy and to give their feedback.
  5. Review and finalise.

The most important HR policies

Where relevant, develop and implement policies to cover the following aspects of employment:

Establishing a code of conduct

A code of conduct is an important HR policy that outlines the standards of behaviour expected by your business of every employee. The code of conduct should be written down to give clear instructions about what employees can and can't do in the workplace.

Common topics to cover in a code of conduct include:

  • ethical principles—includes guidelines for appropriate and respectful workplace behaviour
  • values—refers to what is held as important, for example, an honest, fair and inclusive work environment
  • accountability—focuses on taking responsibility for one's actions, using information appropriately, being diligent, meeting duty-of-care obligations and avoiding conflicts of interest
  • standard of conduct—includes complying with the job description, commitment to the organisation and acceptable computer, internet and email usage
  • standard of practice—includes current policies and procedures and business operational manual
  • disciplinary actions—includes complaints handling and specific penalties for any violation of the code.

Customise the topics in your code of conduct for your business. When writing or reviewing your code of conduct, remember to consult with your employees and stakeholders for their input.

Include information on disciplinary action

Remember to include a clause in your policies that informs your employees that if they are found to breach the policy, they will be subject to disciplinary action, and that this could include terminating their employment.

Implementing HR policies and procedures

When you implement new policies and procedures in the workplace, you must:

  • make sure they are in writing and accessible to all employees
  • communicate the details to all employees
  • provide training to ensure your employees know:
    • what the policy and procedure is
    • how it will work in practice
    • how it will affect them.
  • make sure your employees agree to observe the policies and procedures.

It's also good practice to get your employees to confirm in writing that they:

  • have read and understood your workplace policies and procedures
  • will comply with the policies and procedures.

Regularly promote your workplace policies and ask your employees for feedback to ensure that they understand what is expected of them.

You could communicate the policies and procedures to your employees through, for example:

  • induction packages
  • one-on-one training
  • online training
  • the company intranet
  • an employee handbook
  • noticeboards.

Use an employee handbook

HR policies are often included in an employee handbook. An employee handbook is a guide that outlines expectations, obligations and behaviour standards for your business. Give employees a copy of the employee handbook, so they can reference it as needed.

Provide regular training

Offer regular training on workplace behaviour. This should cover:

  • relevant laws and policies
  • unacceptable behaviour (e.g. bullying, harassment and discrimination)
  • appropriate workplace behaviour for managers and employees
  • the impacts and consequences of inappropriate behaviour
  • how to deal with unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.

Learn more about training and developing your employees.

Reviewing HR policies and procedures

It is important to regularly update and review workplace policies and procedures to ensure they remain current. This is usually done once a year, or when there are changes in relevant laws.

During your review:

  • refer to the latest legislation, standards and guidelines relevant to your business
  • consider what additions you have to make, especially if your business has grown or changed since your last review.

Once you've reviewed or updated your policies and procedures:

  • communicate this to your employees
  • provide all your employees with access to the updated documents
  • arrange training, if required.

Also consider...