Company policies protect your business from frivolous lawsuits. They are designed to give equal opportunities to all employees, to create a safe work environment, and to inform workers about what they can expect from the leadership team. But even the most well-meaning corporate policies are useless if they aren’t followed consistently and to the letter. Follow these steps to ensure compliance.
1. Create Policies
Do you have company policies? You need to be proactive. Don’t just assume you can come up with coherent, fair policies on the fly as situations arise. If you don’t have policies in place, your HR team needs to make this a priority. Solicit input from managers, but your human resources department has the final say in the policy-making process. You want to create policies that will be best for your company. That might, at times, conflict with what your employees will want.
You should have policies to cover:
- Holidays, vacations, sick days, and personal leave
- Performance evaluations and improvement
- Equal Employment Opportunity
- Employee classifications
- Payment schedules, including advances, deductions, and overtime
- Meals and breaks
There are several additional policies you may want to create. Will you allow concealed weapons at your place of work? Will you conduct background checks or drug tests on applicants or employees? What is the procedure if one employee accuses another of bullying or harassment? Can employees bring pets to work? Knowing how you’ll proceed before a heated issue comes up helps to ensure compliance because it sets expectations.
2. Spread Awareness
If no one knows what the policies are, it’s impossible to ensure compliance. A full, detailed list of your policies should be readily accessible at all times. Print out a binder and leave it in the employee break room. Give each new hire a hard and digital copy of corporate policies when he or she is hired. Most importantly, go over the policies to verify that the employee understands and agrees to abide by each one. Ignorance should never be an excuse for not following a corporate policy.
Incorporate your corporate policies into your onboarding process. Go beyond uploading the documents to your onboarding software. Your software should allow you to schedule to-do lists for your new hires, and show you whether or not these tasks have been completed. Don’t just make your company policies mandatory reading material. Create a quiz or questionnaire that prompts employees to share their thoughts about policies. It will be good feedback for you, and it will give new hires the chance to really consider each policy and its potential impact.
3. Lead by Example
Compliance starts at the top. If your managers are taking extended lunch breaks, using company property for personal business, or posting unauthorized updates on social media, your employees will either follow suit or become disillusioned with their leadership. Corporate policies are for everyone, from the CEO to the college intern. If anyone in the company doesn’t follow policy, others will believe that they don’t have to, either. Inconsistency is the biggest danger to successful implementation of your corporate policies.
Consistency is about more than trying to ensure compliance. If an employee ever decides to file a lawsuit against your business, precedents will be a part of that lawsuit. Did you follow every HR policy to the letter, or have you been making exceptions for some? This doesn’t mean that you need to blindly enforce your policies. A salaried employee, for example, may not be subject to the same strict rules as an hourly temp. But document any discrepancies and your reasoning behind them to protect the company should an employee file suit.
4. Be Reasonable
You don’t necessarily need to create a hard and fast rule for everything. You should be proactive and have some sort of general guideline for most scenarios, though. If you’re not sure about a certain policy, don’t exclude it from your corporate policies altogether. Instead, note that this situation “will be handled according to the manager’s discretion.” This leaves the door open for you to change policies later on if they don’t seem right for your business.
5. Follow the Law
There are certain policies every business needs to have in place according to federal law. Review your corporate policies with an attorney to ensure compliance with OSHA, labor laws, and other acts. Remember, your company policies are more than a guide or a handbook. In a court of law, they are typically treated as a contract between an employer and its employees. This is not something you want to put off until a situation arises. Create and ensure compliance with corporate policies now to avoid trouble in the future.
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