As a business owner or manager, your focus is on ensuring your business succeeds. The last thing you need is a dispute with an employee or, worse, someone getting hurt on the job. So, how do you achieve this without impacting your day-to-day business operations?

Implementing and enforcing certain employment policies relevant to your business will help to establish guidelines for employee behaviour, outline the consequences of non-compliance and set procedures for when an issue arises. 

Adopting these policies can help a company to mitigate certain risks naturally associated with running a business and taking on employees. 

This article explains what employment policies are and outlines three key policies that every business should consider implementing.

What are employment policies? 

Employment policies complement your workers’ employment contracts, providing additional information regarding their rights and responsibilities as employees. Policies can deal with a number of subject matters, including:

  • Employee conduct.
  • Health and safety requirements.
  • Bullying and harassment.
  • Conflicts of interest and accepting gifts.
  • Lateness and absence.
  • IT usage.
  • Privacy rules.
  • Training and development procedures.
  • Flexible work arrangements.
  • Managing performance issues.

It is important to record policies in writing and ensure they are easily accessible. 

You should make sure your workers are aware of, and familiar with, all policies relevant to them. 

Typically, you can do this by providing the policies to your employees during inductions and discussing them (and any updates) during regular business training sessions and related assessments. 

You should also be careful to enforce your policies, otherwise you may not be able to rely on them to reduce potential liability should an issue arise.

Three key employment policies

1) IT policy 

Technology is invariably used in, and critical to, workplaces today, regardless of the industry in which your business operates. Businesses should therefore have a rigorous IT policy in place, outlining how they expect employees to use: 

  • Their email account.
  • The business’s IT systems.
  • The internet (including social media).

For example, you may want to regulate what your employees can post about the business via its various social media channels, or to limit their email usage for certain reasons, such as to increase productivity or to limit information and confidentiality breaches.

Critically, your IT policy can help to ensure your business is compliant with its privacy obligations. The New Zealand Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) are a set of 12 guiding principles that govern how you (and, therefore, your employees) should use, collect and disclose personal information. 

As a result, your employees need to be aware of how these principles are relevant to them in the context of undertaking their role. 

For example, when dealing with a customer’s personal information, they must notify the client before collecting their personal information and include the reason they are collecting it. 

Your IT policy should include:

  • A statement about its purpose, outlining the potential risks and what you want to prevent.
  • What a breach of the policy looks like.
  • How employees can report a breach.
  • The consequences of that breach.

2) Health and safety policy

You are likely aware that health and safety considerations are vital. NZ legislation requires businesses to protect their workers by taking all "reasonable, practicable steps" to do so.

A robust health and safety policy should outline how the business will establish, maintain and monitor a safe and healthy workplace for its employees. It puts an onus on both managers and workers to ensure workplace safety.

The policy should also detail the procedures you will implement to achieve these objectives, including reporting procedures for hazards.

While health and safety policies should be relevant to your business and its specific health and safety risks, they should (at a minimum) address the following:

  • Employer, management and worker safety obligations.
  • Procedures for managing risk.
  • Dealing with and disposing of hazardous chemicals (if applicable).
  • Hazard reporting.
  • Procedures for recording injuries and incidents.
  • First aid procedures.
  • Preparing for emergencies.

3) Bullying and harassment policy

Bullying and harassment can have significant detrimental impacts on the health of employees and the productivity of your workplace. Recent studies indicate that more than one in three workers  in NZ experience bullying and harassment. 

Implementing a comprehensive bullying and harassment policy is crucial for:

  • Fostering a respectful and safe company culture and workplace. 
  • Defining what is considered acceptable behaviour in the workplace. 

The policy should outline how staff can report an instance of bullying and harassment, as well as how the business will resolve the matter. 

NZ law requires businesses to investigate all instances of bullying, harassment and discrimination in the workplace. 

Notably, the law also entitles affected individuals to receive support throughout the process.

Key takeaways

Employment policies are critical to ensuring your business fulfils its obligations under employment law. They function as a guideline to appropriate employee behaviour and outline the procedures in place if employment issues arise. 

While there are a number of workplace policies that are likely to be relevant and important to your business, at a minimum you should consider implementing the following:

  1. An IT policy.
  2. A health and safety policy.
  3. A bullying and harassment policy.