What makes a good workplace policy?
As an HR pro, the responsibility for developing and administering the best polices for your business lies with you. Whether or not you have certain policies – and how you tailor them – depends on the specific nature of your workplace and your company. As you define which route to take in certain policy areas, however, certain guidelines and considerations are helpful.
For legal reasons, there are some “must-have” and “must-not-have” policies – policies that your workplace either can’t operate without, or policies you should never adopt.
- In the “must have” arena are policies covering at-will employment, discrimination, harassment and retaliation, as well as adherence to Fair Labor Standards Act provisions.
- “Must not haves” include any policies that prohibit employees from talking about wages or that have the effect of making an employee handbook a contract.
Progressive Discipline Policy Issues
There are differing trains of thought as to the validity and value of progressive discipline policies in the workplace.
- Those who oppose such policies maintain that employees should be treated like “adults” when things go awry versus issuing a series of warnings that may lead to termination.
- On the other side of the coin, some experts argue that the abolition of progressive discipline assumes that all supervisors are fair and equally measure their responses to employee misconduct and performance issues. They maintain that you cannot assume that every manager will objectively arrive at the same level of discipline for an infraction.
- HR and legal expert Peter D. Lowe, partner at Braan & Isaacson, Lewiston, Maine, notes that “If a supervisor wants to skip steps, have him make the case for it, document it, and if he makes a strong case, allow it to happen. It comes down to how you manage progressive discipline, not the policy itself.”
About Reference Rules
Should your managers be allowed to provide references for former employees? Herein lies another area of disagreement when it comes to setting the right policy.
- On one hand, thinking dictates that a reference seeker cannot file a defamation lawsuit if their former manager never has the option of providing a reference.
- Dissenters cite flaws in this reasoning. As pointed out by Liz Ryan, CEO of the HR consulting firm Human Workplace, “If you don’t trust managers to avoid lawsuits when they’re giving references for past employees, why do you let them manager your current employees?”
- The best option may be a middle road, in which no reference may be given without a signed request form that releases your company from liability.
The Attendance Policy Dilemma
Some HR pros decry attendance policies that punish employees for being just a few minutes late, preferring an approach that requires managers to consider each situation separately and work out a collaborative solution. Others say that for many companies, this simply is not feasible.
- “A good leader administers the policy by inquiring about the obstacles to getting to work, but for fairness and consistency, relies on a clear policy” according to Ryan. For instance, a strict policy is necessary in cases where one shift of employees cannot leave until their replacements arrive.
- Another “pro” argument is that more structured attendance policies make it easier to treat all employees equally, rather than rely on judgment calls made by supervisors.
Do you need guidance as you make the right policy decisions to advance your workplace? Call on the expert team at CPS Recruitment. We can help you build, develop and continuously improve your industry-leading team.