Personnel Policy Service, Inc.

about us > hr management articles > HR Policies > Written Policies


HR Policy & Compliance Experts Since 1972

 

See How It Works

 

See how we help others like you access model policies, make confident HR decisions quickly, stay ahead of changing requirements easily and get answers to tough HR questions instantly. Learn more, click here

 
 

Why We are the HR Compliance Experts?

 

“I just got back from a 3-hour lunch meeting where I reviewed with a vice president all the changes in our benefits and services policies that will appear in the next iteration of our Employee Handbook. I could speak with knowledge, confidence and authority largely because of your Personnel Policy Manual with all of its supporting guidance and documentation. You are my #1 resource when it comes to policies. Keep up the good work!”
 
Don Jones
Director of Human Resources
Columbia International University
Columbia, SC

See how it works...

 
 

HR Policies & Labor Law Posters

· Attendance
· COBRA Requirements
· Dress Code
· Drugs/Narcotics/Alcohol
· Employee Classification
· FLSA Compliance
· FMLA Checklist
· Workplace Smoking
· Holiday
· Internet/Email Communication
· Layoff and Recall
· Military Leave
· Pay Procedures
· Rest Breaks
· Sexual Harassment
 

  HR Policies, Labor Law Posters FREE

 
 

Topics

· ADA
· Affirmative Action
· FLSA
· Sexual Harassment
· Wage and Hour
. Identity Theft Protection
 
   More HR topics? Visit our HR Forum
 

Contact Us

Email: info@ppspublishers.com
Sites: www.ppspublishers.com
          www.instanthrpolicies.com
          www.hrpolicyanswers.com
          www.hrmattersblog.com

Follow us on Twitter: @ppshrpolicies Twitter @ppshrpolicies

 


HR Matters Tools and Resource Center

Including
Personnel Policy Manual System


HR Answers and Updating Made Easy

Employment law: analysis, documentation, & support
HR Best Practices: solutions working in the field
Policy Writing and Revision: templates drafted for clarity

 Try A Free Preview Now or
call 800-437-3735

 

 

The Case for Written HR Policies     |   Download Free Written HR Policies

Why are written policies important?
Are we required to have written policies?
Does every organization need written policies? 
Will we create a contract if we have written policies?
Supervisory policy manual vs. employee handbook
What policies should we include?
Is the Job Ever Done?

The debate has heated up again between HR experts who argue that written policies are a necessity and employment attorneys who say written records are dangerous and can be used against you in a lawsuit. So who's right and what does it mean for you?

[Creating HR Policies or Employee Handbook?]

When was the last time you reviewed your organization's policies? If you're like many employers, writing or updating policies is at the bottom of a lengthy "to-do" list. And, you may even question the value of having written policies because of the apparently conflicting advice concerning their usefulness. On one hand, many HR experts advocate having written policies as a way of communicating your organization's values and practices to employees. Alternatively, a growing number of attorneys are warning their clients that poorly drafted policies may land you in court. So, who should you believe? The short answer is both groups. Upon closer consideration, these positions are not contradictory. Well-written policies can both serve as an effective communication device and help you stay out of court, or at least give you a better chance of prevailing. 

The following questions and answers will help define the underlying issues and make clear why written policies that are carefully developed, updated, and applied are an effective tool that you need.

Why are written policies important?

Sound employment policies provide the framework within which an organization governs its employee relations. A policies and procedures manual guides both managers and employees as to what is expected and can prevent misunderstandings about employer policy. In addition, supervisors and managers are more likely to consistently apply policies that are clearly communicated in writing. 

It is true that written policies, like any record, can be used against an organization in a lawsuit. Poorly drafted policies often become the main evidence presented when employees allege that the policies were in fact a contract that the employer violated. However, policies that are carefully written so as not to be contracts actually should protect against these claims and not be a problem. (See number 4, below.) In addition, carefully written policies can be used to illustrate your commitment to a positive work environment and nondiscriminatory employment practices. (See number 3, below.)

Are we required to have written policies?

Although written policies in general are not legally required, certain policies may be required, or at least be considered an important component in helping employers establish good faith compliance with federal and state law. For example, the Supreme Court has indicated that employers may protect themselves against liability for sexual harassment by having clearly articulated policies against sexual harassment that include effective complaint procedures. In addition, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires covered employers to provide written information regarding employee rights and employer obligations under the Act. Similarly, certain federal contractors must have written equal employment opportunity policies. And finally, many state laws require written harassment policies and policies informing employees about compensation issues. 

Does every organization need written policies? 

As a general rule, every employer, except maybe those with fewer than 15 employees, should have written policies. Employers with 15 or more employees are covered by federal discrimination laws (such as Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act) and most state discrimination laws. Written policies are a good starting point to show your commitment to nondiscriminatory employment practices. For example, a performance review policy can show the job-related criteria used to evaluate employees and any safeguards used to ensure the process is conducted in a fair and objective manner. 

Smaller employers should at least consider creating a handbook since it is likely they already have some policies in writing. For example, employment offer letters may explain vacation and sick leave accrual while other items, like a posted memo, may outline pay procedures. Thus, to ensure distribution to all employees, even the small employer is well advised to compile these memos into a handbook that is given to every employee.

Will we create a contract if we have written policies?

The simple act of putting your policies in writing should not create a binding contract if the policies are written as guidelines that explain generally or typically what your requirements are and how employees normally will be treated. However, you can create a contract by using language that conveys rigid rules that must be followed exactly as written in all circumstances.

Therefore, you should build flexibility into your wording and steer clear of any promises that could be interpreted as a contract. Your policies should not, for example: 

  • State that the organization will "only" or "always" do something or "must" act in a particular way; 

  • Describe employees as "permanent"; 

  • State that employees will be terminated only for "cause"; 

  • Make promises of job security; or 

  • Use all-inclusive lists, such as in disciplinary procedures or work rules. 

Instead, you should use terms such as "generally," "typically," "usually," and "may" so that managers have flexibility in interpreting and applying the policies. In addition, you should specifically retain management's right to update, change unilaterally, and implement all policies as the organization sees fit. Finally, you should include a strong "at-will" statement that clearly specifies that all employees (who do not have contracts or collective bargaining agreements specifying otherwise) may quit at any time and for any reason or may be terminated at any time and for any reason.

Supervisory policy manual vs. employee handbook:

 

What is the difference between a supervisory policy manual and an employee handbook? Which should we have?

A supervisory policy manual generally is intended as a guide for managers and supervisors and contains information that they need to implement the organization's policies. Thus, a supervisory policy usually provides a general statement of policy followed by several comments that instruct managers how to apply that policy.

In contrast, an employee handbook is designed for broad distribution to all employees. It is typically intended to provide general information about the organization's practices, benefits, hours of work, pay policies, and work rules. It usually does not include information about supervisory procedures.

At a minimum, you should have an employee handbook that explains your policies to employees. Many organizations, especially as they grow, also have a supervisory policy manual to ensure that their managers understand how to implement the policies. As a practical matter, having supervisory instructions may be especially prudent in today's legal climate where any inconsistent application of policy can result in a discrimination claim.

 

What policies should we include?

In choosing policies to include, you should consider the following points:

  • The culture of your organization and its recurring issues or problems; 

  • Any memos on policy topics (such as vacation and holiday schedules) and past practices (i.e., what you have done in the past to address a particular employee relations issue); and 

  • The HR practices followed by other organizations in your industry (such as vacation lengths and leave allowances). 

Most employers develop policies on the following topics: 

  • at-will employment, 

  • pay procedures, 

  • benefits (including any paid vacation, sick leave, and holidays, and other forms of leave), 

  • meal and rest breaks, 

  • personal conduct (work rules), 

  • attendance and punctuality, 

  • sexual and other forms of harassment, 

  • equal employment opportunity, 

  • disciplinary procedures, and 

  • termination. 

In addition, many employers include policies on performance appraisals, smoking, safety procedures, appropriate dress and appearance, use of communications systems (including the proper use of telephones, computers, e-mail, and Internet access), and drug and alcohol use.

Remember, your policies should be considered dynamic, not static. You may need to add to them, revise them, and even delete them as your organization grows and changes.

Is the Job Ever Done?

Even when you're finished drafting or updating your policies, your job is not complete. The policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel to ensure that they comply with state and federal employment law before they are finalized and distributed to employees. Further, you should review the policies on a regular basis to make sure they continue to comply with applicable law and the needs of your organization. New laws, regulations, and court cases can affect both policy language and how you implement the policies. Most experts suggest a thorough review of your policies at least once a year and the use of a notification service or publication to keep you posted during the interim. Finally, when policies are introduced or revised, you should distribute and thoroughly explain them to all employees.

Clearly written policies that are regularly re-viewed can be both an effective employee relations tool and a good defense against employee lawsuits. In contrast, policies that are poorly drafted or applied can have exactly the opposite effect. They can lower morale and become evidence against you in court. The key question, therefore, becomes not whether to have written policies at all, but whether you are willing to invest the necessary amount of time and effort to make sure they are carefully drafted and properly applied.

 

Get your FREE access to this and 100's of FREE HR resources today. Create a free account for the Personnel Policy Manual System.

Handbook/Policy Writing, HR Best Practices, Legal Compliance try the Personnel Policy Manual System.

 

This article is not intended as legal advice. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate legal or other professional advice.

 
Try a Free No-Risk 30-Day Trial Review Now
Personnel Policy Manual Service
Your HR policy solution for writing, revision, and legal compliance
Available in Print or CD

You get all the resources you need for easy policy writing and employment law compliance. Our comprehensive time-and-money saving service helps you:

  • Create, revise, and update your HR policies;

  • Plug into the best HR practices and trends;
  • Stay on top of employment laws, regulations, and court cases;
  • Avoid unnecessary legal exposure; and
  • Build policy and compliance expertise.

Request a 30-day risk-free review now. See first hand how the Personnel Policy Manual service will become your most trusted HR business advisor.

Price: $457 (Free Shipping)

Risk-Free: You pay nothing unless totally satisfied. At the end of 30 days, either pay the invoice to continue your subscription, or simply return the manual and owe nothing.

To request your 30-day free trial online, just fill in the form below and submit. Otherwise, just call our friendly customer service department at 1-800-437-3735 (9:00-5:00 Eastern Time). We’ll be happy to process your request or answer any questions you might have.

Fill out this form and submit:
* indicates required fields

Your Subscription Includes:

* 800-page HR Policy Manual
   (print/CD)
*
Monthly updates
*
Monthly HR Matters newsletter
*
HR Matters E-Tips

 

View Sample HR Policy

 

100% Money Back
Guarantee of Satisfaction
Good for a FULL YEAR!

 

Less than 15 employees? OR
Outside US? Click here

 

Format:
Print
Online
Both Print and Online
First:
Last:
Title:
Business or Organization:
Street Address:
Street Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Country:
Business Phone:
Business Fax:
Email:
Number of Employees:
 

 

 
 



Benefits for Tough Times

 

(FMLA Leave Solution)
Solve Your FMLA Headaches With
Leaves of Absence

Model Policy and 85-Page HR Total Support Package. Learn more.

 

Easy Employee Handbook & HR Policies

Do You manage Key Employee Issues? Less than 15 employees? OR Outside US? Click here. Use our topic list below to easily locate the right HR policy product.

* Absence
* Benefits
* Conduct
* Employment
* Pay Practices

* Personnel Responsibilities
* Reimbursement
* Work Areas
* Miscellaneous

 

Get your employee handbook Now!

 
 

Download HR Policies Now

Absence
Attendance and Punctuality
Short-Term Absences
Leaves of Absence
Rest Breaks
Meal Breaks
Benefits
Disclosure of Benefits
Vacations
Holidays
Lunch Facilities
Educational Assistance
Employee Counseling
Recognition Awards
Company Products
Relocation
Athletics and Recreation
Conduct
Behavior of Employees
Appearance of Employees
Finances of Employees
Customer Relations
Use of Communications
Conflicts of Interest
Confidentiality
Disciplinary Procedure
Drugs, Narcotics, Alcohol
Employment
Equal Employment Opportunity
Sexual Harassment
Hiring
Employment Agreements
Orientation and Training
Medical Procedures
Serious Diseases
Introductory Period
Transfer
Promotion
Hours of Work
Outside Employment
Employee Classifications
Layoff and Recall
Termination
Retirement
Miscellaneous
Personnel Records
Community Participation
Suggestion Program
Dispute Resolution
Pay Practices
Salary Administration
Performance Appraisals
Severance Pay
Job Evaluation
Pay Procedures
Personnel Responsibilities
Model Cover
President’s Letter
Functions of this Manual
Employee Supervision
Personnel Manager
Employer-Employee Relations
Employment-At-Will
Reimbursement
Travel
Automobile Usage
Business Entertaining
Meal Reimbursement
Clubs and Civic Organizations
Trade and Professional Associations
Work Areas
Employee Safety
Maintenance of Work Areas
Personal Property
Solicitation
Parking
Security
Smoking
Special Reports
New FLSA Regulations: Understanding the Issues

 

 Search      Advanced Search

 
 
 
 
     

Personnel Policies | Employee  Manual | HR Matters newsletter | HR Compliance Tips | Employee Manual (CD-ROM)
Easy to Create Employee Handbook | Management & Compliance  Tips| Human Resource Management | Web sources | Employment Law

Company Policy | Employee handbook | Hr Policy | Download HR Policies  | Corporate Employee Handbooks | Download Employee Handbook