Human Resources Policies are one of the key elements in the success of a start-up or an established business. The expertise on how to implement HR policies and procedures is vital for companies to boost the performance of employees and keep them loyal and passionate about their work years after years.
With the onset of COVID-19, adjustments have occurred in almost every aspect of businesses, and HR policies are not exempted! During the pandemic, changes in the work setting are either intensified or newly introduced. We list down 10 effective and must-have HR policies to help employers manage employee needs with or without the pandemic.
1. Work Health and Safety Policy
It is rightful and expected for employers to provide every Australian with a safe and healthy workplace. Under the Work Health and Safety Act of 2011, not only does the physical but also the psychological wellbeing of workers should be taken care of in places of work. The law aims to protect individuals involved in employment by making sure that each can perform their duties in a secured environment.
What are employer obligations for a safe and healthy workplace? Strategies to prevent workplace bullying are up for implementation of employers as part of their prudence for their employees. Policies & procedures may differ according to the industry or line of work. For jobs that require onsite presence in an under-construction building, for example, workers are expected to wear protective gear and observe safety protocols. Workplace safety policy includes the responsibility of employers to train and instruct employees to safeguard them while doing work-related tasks.
In the light of COVID-19, health and safety measures are very significant. While most employers adopted the work from home setups, some businesses inevitably require face-to-face operations. HR Policies addressing the need for clear safety and health measures are indispensable not only for the employees but also for the employers to continue and keep up with the new normal in business operations.
2. Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination Policy
It is prohibited under the anti-discrimination law to treat an individual differently because of one’s race, age, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. Workplace bullying or harassing a person are both penalisable acts. As defined in the Fair Work Amendment Act 2013, bullying happens when persons or groups of persons act biased towards an employee that causes threats to one’s health and safety.
Harassment and discrimination in the workplace cover a range of unacceptable work behavior. It includes sexual harassment, where an individual may ask for sexual activities or initiate sexual remarks toward a co-worker. It also encompasses racial discrimination where an individual may shame someone because of their ethnic origin or nationality. Lastly, harassment and discrimination can also occur for employees with disabilities. People who are suffering from medical conditions that affect their behaviour, physical appearance, etc., may be subjected to discrimination in the workplace.
To avoid any forms of bullying, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace, it is essential that all employees are guided with HR policies that will define appropriate behaviour and treatment for each and everyone to enjoy a healthy workplace environment. Aside from obtaining help from HR officers in the workplace, people who feel unsafe or in need of assistance in taking serious actions can seek expert legal advice.
3. Code of Conduct Policy
Tasks and goals in the workplace are attainable not only when people engage in teamwork but also when everyone acts accordingly. To make this happen, the Code of Conduct needs to be established through the HR policies.
A Code of Conduct covers a variety of aspects that requires appropriate behaviour and management from the employees; it speaks about how the business translates its vision and values to the concept of work ethics that needs to be embodied by the employees. A well laid out Code of Conduct in the workplace is a key to preventing cases of unprofessional acts, legal accountabilities due to improper behaviour, and negative impact to the reputation of the business due to issues of misconduct. With a Code of Conduct that directs the employees of the expected level of professionalism at work, a business can promote a sustainable culture that can increase solidarity and effectiveness at work.
4. Leave Policy
One way or another, employees will need a separate day to spend outside of work aside from the weekends. This is where the leave policy of the business comes in. Leave benefits are applicable both for full-time and part-time or seasonal employees. Although everyone knows the right they hold for taking a leave, it is the job of employers to design a leave policy that will have complete and clear details for employees to rely on.
Employees are entitled to a variety of leave benefits. One of these is the annual leave, which grants full-time and part-time workers four weeks of leave depending on their hours of work. Another type is sick or carer’s leave. This leave allows the employee to leave a day out of work if they are going through an illness or nursing a family member who is sick. National Employment Standards identifies five days of unpaid leave every year for all employees who will need to work on family and domestic violence, which calls for this type of leave benefit. Employees are also entitled to take a bereavement leave if they lost an immediate family or a household member acquires a serious illness or injury. Aside from these, employees are also entitled to leave benefits for maternity, public holidays, community service, and long service leave.
Leave benefits may have other types depending on the business and the employer. But whatever type of leave, it is important to note that an HR policy dedicated to it is fundamental to guide both the employees and the employer.
5. Performance Counselling and Discipline Policy
A significant factor for continuous nurturance of employees is performance counseling and disciplinary procedures. An HR policy should be dedicated to improve the talents and skills of the employees and give them an up-to-date review of performance. Aside from assisting employees for skill improvement, this HR policy also intends to address issues on performance and behaviour.
Making counseling available for employees can help avoid future major incidents of issues in the workplace, which can lead to legal risks for the business. It should be a practice for businesses to record the challenges encountered by employees and act upon the aspects that need training or warnings for poor performance or improper behaviour.
HR policy for workplace privacy is best drafted with legal guidance to ensure that both the rights of employers and the employees are protected and implemented.
7. Workplace Confidentiality Policy
Confidential information about the company is as important as the privacy of the employees’ information. There are legal steps that can be taken to protect the data of the company or business.
A good start in approaching the safeguard of confidential information is to set the guidelines for the employees, service providers, suppliers, or clients. With partnerships, company information can be shared and acquired by any of the aforementioned groups of people. It is necessary to make sure that they know how to manage any information that will fall into their hands.
Aside from having a workplace confidentiality policy, business owners can also take on IP assignment deeds and non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements. All of these can be worked out with the assistance of legal professionals to guarantee the interest of the company or business information.
8. Remote Work Policy
Indeed, the known platform for job search, reported in 2019 that over two-thirds or 68 percent of Australian businesses allow employees to do remote work. This goes to show that even before the pandemic, remote work is practiced both by the employers and employees. With the onset of COVID-19, the advantages of office work have been set aside. People are forced to stay indoors to avoid infection and more companies are pushed to implement remote work.
Considering the data above and the current work setup, it is imperative for businesses to include remote work policy as one of the priority HR-related tasks. It will help employers to lay down the responsibilities and expected performance of the employees while working in the comforts of their homes. A remote work policy will also guide employees with the company rules and help them set up goals while working distantly.
9. Workplace Flexibility Policy
With or without the pandemic, flexible working hours is one of the options given to employees, particularly those who are part-timers. It is the responsibility of employers to grant flexible working arrangements for the employees who are likely juggling more than one role in everyday life. Thanks to the amendment in the Fair Work Act of 2009, not only employees who are parents or guardians of a child under school age are entitled to flexible working arrangements. With this change, a wider range of workers were covered for flexible working arrangements and more businesses adopted and designed rules that will govern this entitlement for employees.
Crafting a workplace flexibility policy can contribute to the productivity of the employees. Not everyone works at their best with the usual shifts implemented in the office. Aside from individual preferences, certain professions are also maximised when workers are provided with the option to work in flexible hours.
10. Digital Policy
Gadgets and social media are truly some of the necessities for people nowadays. In workplaces, however, employees must know the boundaries of using personal gadgets and accounts while working for the affairs and matters of a company.
A digital policy in the workplace will also lay down the conduct expected from the employees when communicating using the internet, email, and social media accounts operated by the company. The said policy will also provide the responsibilities of the employees in using company-owned platforms that are used for communication.