Workplace Policy Drafting
What are workplace policies?
Workplace policies are rules that a business sets for its employees in the workplace. Some policies are written down, while others are formed through common practice. The complete collection of workplace policies is often referred to as the employee handbook.
Should all companies have workplace policies?
Yes. Employers are required to have certain workplace policies by legislation. Others, while not mandatory, are important tools for the day-to-day management of the business.
Which workplace policies are mandatory?
Employers in Ontario are required to have workplace polices addressing the following:
Workplace Violence and Harassment: All employers must adopt such a policy, and the policy must meet certain criteria prescribed by law. If you have five or more employees, the policy must be in writing.
Occupational Health and Safety: Again, if you have five or more employees, the policy must be in writing.
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act: AODA requires companies to adopt various different policies related to accommodating persons with disabilities. Customer-facing companies must have policies relating to customer service of people with disabilities. Businesses with 50 or more employees must have a written accessibility plan and a multiyear accessibility policy.
Pay Equity: Businesses with 100 or more employees are required to have a documented pay equity plan.
Which workplace policies are recommended?
Certain policies, while not required, are strongly recommended for all businesses:
Human Rights: Employers can be held liable for workplace discrimination if they fail to have a complaint and investigation process. A human rights policy, in this way, reduces liability.
Vacation/Leave/Absenteeism Policies: Employers should set clear limits for the number of days and circumstances when employees may take time off work, in order to prevent abuse of sick and other leaves, and to provide a basis for employee discipline.
Social Media/Personal Cellphones: Employers should consider whether they will tolerate personal cellphone and social media use in the workplace, and to what extent. Such policies can also set ground rules for employees' activity and posts on social media.
Overtime: There is nothing in the Employment Standards Act that says an employee must obtain approval to work overtime. Employers should adopt an overtime policy to control this.
Conflicts of Interest: If employees are in a position to exercise discretion on behalf of the company, the employer should be clear on the rules regarding conflicts of interests, in order to limit self-dealing.
Do workplace policies actually matter?
There is a common misconception among employers that workplace policies simply go in the handbook where they gather dust. That is not (nor should it be) the case. Workplace policies are frequently invoked in legal proceedings. Generally, employment law requires companies to make their expectations very clear to their employees for all purposes. It can be difficult to defend any action an employer takes, such as discipline or termination, if it failed to make the expectations clear to the employee prior to taking action.
In that regard, it is also very important that employers put their workplace policies into effect and make sure they are followed to the letter. If an employer does not follow its own policies, then it cannot reasonably expect its employees to either.
What can Hyde HR Law do for my company?
The lawyers at Hyde HR Law are experts on drafting workplace policies. We advise our clients on what policies they ought to establish and use our expertise to design policies that are tailored to each workplace. Contact us today.