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Policies and procedures

Set clear expectations for your employees — and make your own job easier — by creating policies and procedures that outline what's expected.

These documents support the employment agreements you have with your employees, and mean you and your staff know exactly what will be done if there's a problem.

The benefit of policies and procedures

Policies and procedures are an important tool in managing your employees. They work alongside employment agreements to make sure both parties are clear on the expectations and obligations of the employment relationship. 

They can:

  • reduce the risk that anyone misunderstands the conditions of employment
  • ensure fairness
  • give you a good reference point to confirm that you’re complying with all relevant legislation
  • help you get consistency across multiple locations.

Thinking about how you want your business to run, documenting it, and sharing it with your employees, will save you time and money in the long run.

What are policies and procedures?

A policy is a set of rules or principles to be followed in a particular area, eg a leave policy might explain your expectations for staff requesting leave, like applying at least a week in advance.

A procedure is the way something is done, e.g. the forms that need to be filled out for requesting leave.

Policies and procedures support employment agreements by providing detail on matters that might not be negotiated as part of an employment agreement.

You’ll often (but not always) have both a policy and a procedure for a particular topic. For example, your health and safety (H&S) policy might be linked to your accident reporting procedure. The policy might cover

  • the principles of keeping people safe
  • taking time off for illness
  • striving for a good work-life balance. It might be linked to your accident reporting procedure
  • support available for those experiencing personal difficulties, eg family violence.

Read more on what to do in case of an H&S issue or accident:

Your policies and procedures must be consistent with your employment agreements and your employment practices.

When you’re creating policies and procedures, you should:

  • make sure they are suitable for your business, eg there’s no need to have a policy or procedure on travel if your staff always work onsite
  • think about what you’re trying to achieve, and the principles you want to follow
  • draft the policy or procedure, thinking about what is fair and reasonable and what kind of behaviour you want to drive
  • think about how you’ll make sure that people are following the policy or procedure
  • consider how you’ll handle things if people behave in a way that is counter to the policy or procedure
  • consult with staff
  • finalise the policy
  • publish the policy.

Make sure your employees are aware of your policies, and if you’re making changes or developing a new policy, get their input.

Common policies and procedures

Your business might benefit from a number of different policies and procedures. Although not all of them will be relevant to your business, you could consider what your house rules might be on:

  • code of conduct — this should also cover privacy and conflicts of interest
  • discipline, misconduct and employment investigations, including suspension expenses
  • health and safety
  • holidays and leave
  • hours of work and overtime, including time in lieu and flexible work arrangements
  • information security
  • internet, e-mail and social media use
  • leaving the business
  • performance appraisals
  • recruitment, including reference checking
  • resolving employment issues
  • training and development
  • travel
  • use of company equipment.

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