Workplace policies and procedures are an effective means of ensuring that employees are aware of their obligations in the workplace. They can also serve an additional purpose of assisting employers to comply with their legal obligations.
As HR Advance includes a range of policies that exist to cover nearly every aspect of the employment relationship, it is important that employers implement only the most relevant policies for their particular business. We discuss below the three policies that we consider to be the most important policies an employer should implement.
Occupational health and safety
All states and territories have occupational health and safety legislation which imposes numerous obligations upon employers, employees, and other participants in the workplace. Importantly, employers must ensure the health, safety, and welfare of its employees at work.
Likewise, employees must take reasonable care for their own, as well as other employees' health and safety in the workplace.
An OHS policy can therefore be an effective means of reminding employees and employers of their obligations, and assuring employees that their employer is intent on complying with its OHS obligations. In addition, because employers have the specific duty of providing employees with sufficient information to ensure the health and safety of employees, an OHS policy is an important tool in delivering that information.
Of course, all employers should also supplement their OHS policy with relevant procedures, training, instruction, and supervision.
Anti-discrimination and equal employment opportunity
There is an abundance of legal regulation that exists at the federal and state levels that concerns anti-discrimination, freedom of association, bullying, vilification, harassment, and equal opportunity.
An Anti-Discrimination & EEO Policy can be effective in alerting employees to certain types of behaviour that is unacceptable in the workplace.
A policy of this nature can also assist in alerting employees who may be subjected to unacceptable behaviour, to ways in which they can seek assistance from their employer to eliminate the behaviour.
The policy can also assist employers to defend themselves from allegations that they are vicariously liable for the actions of employees which contravene relevant legislation.
Of course, all employers should also supplement their Anti-Discrimination & Equal Employment Opportunity policy with relevant procedures, training, instruction, and supervision.
Some states and territories have legislation that regulates the surveillance of employees while they are at work.
The surveillance can relate to computer usage, email usage, camera, tracking, or phone. Using various surveillance methods can be useful for increasing safety and productivity within the workplace.
In some cases, the legislation requires employers to provide advance notice to employees of the commencement of surveillance.
The HRA Advance Internet, Email and Computer Use Policy serves to notify employees of the type of surveillance that exists in the workplace, the frequency of the surveillance and the purpose. It also aims to assist employers to meet the requirements of relevant legislation by having a workplace surveillance policy.
Beware of promissory statements!!!
If an employer does not want their policies to become binding terms of an employment contract then it is important that the policy avoids using promissory or contractual language. Similarly, employment contracts can be drafted to expressly exclude the policies as contractual employment terms.
The importance of not making promissory or contractual statements in policies was highlighted by the appeal decision of the Full Federal Court in Goldman Sachs JB Were Services Pty Ltd v Nikolich.
In that case, the Court upheld the original decision of Justice Wilcox which awarded an employee more than $500,000 damages for psychological injury arising from a breach of a term of a policy that was found to be contractual.
Lawful and reasonable directions
It is also important to note that a failure to make a policy contractual in nature does not mean that an employee does not have to follow the policy.
Employers can always require compliance (and enforce discipline) with a policy, provided that the policy can be regarded as a lawful and reasonable directive of the employer
Appropriate training, personnel, and grievance handling
It is also important that policies are 'workable' and consistent with the real experience in the workplace.
Employers must train managers and HR staff in their policies and procedures and monitor the administration and application of the policies.
Where complaints and/or grievances arise in relation to a policy, they should be treated seriously and investigated/actioned promptly and adequately by personnel who understand their role.
How can HR Advance help?
HR Advance includes a number of documents which can assist subscribers to meet their obligations with respect to OHS, anti-discrimination and EEO, and workplace surveillance. Those documents include:
• the OHS General Policy, to assist in the identification and planning of OHS risks and hazards,
• the Anti-Discrimination & EEO Policy, to be used to supplement training and awareness campaigns, and
• the Internet, Email and Computer Use Policy which includes a section that permits subscribers to adapt the policy to cover surveillance of the employer's IT systems.
HR Advance also includes at least 34 other policies which an employer may wish to implement in its business. Those policies can be found under the Policies link on the website.
NOTE: This is for information purposes only. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to render legal advice.
Article sourced from HR Advance, A HR Toolkit service for business. For a free demo of HR Advance, and to see how this service can minimise risk in your businesss and save you time and costs, contact us at "firstname.lastname@example.org" or call Craig on 0450 747337.