What Are HR Policies? (With Importance and Examples)

Updated March 21, 2023

Clearly defined workplace policies are a vital component of any organization as they provide clarity and structure. These policies define the acceptable standards of behaviour and serve as a point of reference for various issues. As a human resources (HR) professional, understanding different human resource policies and how they operate can help you maintain discipline and orderliness at work. In this article, we define HR policies, outline their importance, provide examples of human resources policies, and list essential forms for documenting policies in the workplace.

What are HR policies?

HR policies are guidelines that companies set for employee relations in the workplace. They're a standardized set of rules that ensure consistency by outlining acceptable behavioural standards, employee expectations, disciplinary procedures, and organizational obligations. Companies set these policies to show commitment to regulatory requirements, minimum employment standards, training, diversity, and ethics.

Importance of human resource policies in the workplace

Human resource policies are essential for HR departments and professionals in the workplace to reflect workplace culture and values. It details the rights and obligations of employers and employees. It also serves as a point of recourse to evaluate employee actions and performance objectively while holding the company accountable and compliant with standing regulations. Some reasons human resource policies are essential insofar as they:

  • Help ensure employees get fair compensation

  • Outline acceptable standards of behaviour in the workplace

  • Protect the needs and interests of employees

  • Help address complaints and provide methods to solve them

Important HR policies

Some human resource policies that a company can adopt for employees in the workplace are:

Telecommuting policy

Telecommuting policies are increasingly important as more employees work remotely. These policies outline the conditions for working remotely while still meeting work obligations. For example, it may include limitations for remote roles, positions open for remote work, pay and time policies, and the company's right to end telecommuting.

Read more: Remote Work Policy: Importance and What to Include

Health and safety policy

The Canada Labour Code makes provisions for health and safety measures in the workplace. It provides information on health and wellness in the workplace, workplace hazards, safety, compensation, mental health, and labour code prosecutions. It's also crucial for companies to develop unique hazard prevention programs specific to their industry and any roles that are more prone to injuries. This policy may contain compulsory safety measures, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training, expectations from employees, policies regarding impairment, and instructions on what to do when injuries occur.

Meal and break policy

Federal legislation on meal and break policy applies to all workplaces. The Canada Labour Code sets out a compulsory 30-minute break for every five consecutive hours of work and an eight-hour rest period between shifts. It also outlines the different break periods that apply to specific professionals and exceptions. A company may establish additional workplace policies for employees working remotely.

Pay and time-keeping policy

Employers set time-keeping policies to define required work hours and provide systems for tracking and recording them. It may also include payday policies that outline details concerning employee compensation based on their employment status or work hours. The compensation system may differ in terms of payment frequency and methods.

Leave and time off work policy

The leave and time off work policy outline the company's rules regarding vacation entitlement, statutory holidays, and other leave permits. It also discusses the conditions for employees to ask for time off or work leave. In addition, it outlines the duration and process for granting leave according to federal and provincial or territorial legislation.

Related: What Is a Leave of Absence? (With Definitions and Types)

Sexual harassment policy

As sexual harassment is becoming an issue of concern in workplaces, employers set these policies to address and prevent it. Sexual harassment policies outline the company's zero-tolerance guidelines for inappropriate and unwanted sexual acts. It also provides proper channels for employers to report sexual misconduct, investigative processes, offender disciplinary measures, and remedial options for victims.

Bring your own device (BYOD) policy

The bring your own device (BYOD) policy outlines the procedure for employees using personal devices at work. This policy discusses safety measures for employees who use their own devices, like mobile devices, laptops, or tablets. It outlines employees' safety and security measures to prevent breaches when accessing company data. It also identifies the type of devices employees can use in the workplace and the required conditions.

Anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy

The anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy defines and enforces non-tolerance of discrimination and harassment by setting acceptable standards of behaviour. It also outlines behaviours that qualify as harassment and discrimination while defining roles and responsibilities. While these policies may relate to each other, some companies may separate them as different policies.

One reason is that harassment is a form of discrimination and may raise independent issues. According to certain codes, discrimination or harassment may manifest differently based on gender expression or identity, race, or sexual orientation. A company may also set up complaint procedures so employees can report these issues easily and anonymously. It also allows the HR department to determine how to handle policy violations fairly.

Read more: How to Promote Inclusion and Diversity in the Workplace

Confidentiality policy

The confidentiality policy is a two-way policy that protects the privacy rights of employers and employees. For example, employees in an organization may submit personal information, such as their name, mailing address, and banking details, as part of the employment contract. This policy specifies that the employer is responsible for protecting these details and using them only for consented purposes.

The policy balances the employee's right to privacy with the employer's requirement for employee information. It also protects private conversations relating to the company or employer to ensure confidentiality and non-disclosure. The policy may define what information classifies as protected information for the employer and employee.

Social media and data privacy policy

Companies may create social media policies to protect their reputations. A company typically details these policies in its employee handbook and indicates further rules through internal memos. The policy might include which topics the company prohibits employees from discussing or posting on social media, outline acceptable media actions as employees, and disclose disciplinary measures for employees who violate these policies. For example, cyberbullying and discussing private company information online may lead to different repercussions.

Employees may raise data privacy concerns when they use company-provided devices for personal reasons. In some instances, this policy allows employers to monitor or search personal devices or activities on company-provided technology. The social media and data use policy aims to balance employer and employee privacy rights on relevant platforms and devices.

Weapon-free workplace policy

This policy prohibits employees from possessing firearms, explosives, or weapons in the workplace and outlines disciplinary measures for anyone who breaches the agreement. A company sets weapons policies in the workplace to ensure a safe and secure environment.

This policy defines what constitutes a weapon, specifies acceptable behaviour with respect to tools and firearms, and outlines the punishment for each default level. For roles or businesses requiring firearms, the policy details what firearms acquisition certificates or possession licences are necessary. For example, the policy may require employees to take a Canadian Firearms Safety course under a certified firearms instructor.

Employee attendance policy

The employee attendance policy defines company rules for absences, how to notify the employer, and how the company may manage constant absenteeism. An employer may set this policy to manage employees' absenteeism without due notice properly. It states work hours and expectations for employees to arrive on time. In the instance of absenteeism due to medical reasons, the employee may provide medical documents to substantiate the claim and for proper recording.

Necessary human resource forms

Employers require formal documentation systems to communicate and record workplace policies. Some forms necessary in the workplace are:

Hiring forms

Employers prepare employment forms for employees to sign at different stages of the hiring process. Before hiring, employees fill in the job application and evaluation forms. After the company hires them, employees sign their official employment offer to confirm their employment status. This form may also contain essential details such as their hourly rate or annual salary, the duration of the agreement if it's on a contract basis, and the core responsibilities of the role, among other expectations.

Employee handbook agreements

Employers often provide the handbook to new hires during onboarding. It contains essential information and workplace policies. Employees are responsible for reading and complying with the company's policies. Some employers ask that employees sign this agreement when receiving the handbook to confirm that they agree to the terms and understand their expectations.

Read more: Employee Handbook: Definition, Importance, and Sections

Leave of absence

When employees request time off, companies require that they make a formal request. Formally recording leave requests help the company track important details like the duration of the time off and the number of days or hours away. It may also help the company determine remuneration and compensation arrangements within the leave duration.

Performance and discipline forms

Companies keep essential documents relating to employee performance reviews over a period. These performance documents include performance reviews and improvement plans, promotions, and recognitions. The company may also record disciplinary forms like queries, inquisitions, verbal and written warnings, employee write-ups, suspensions, and terminations.

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