The Need for a Company Policy
authors Bruce Kelleran
If you’ve had your kitchen and bath firm for even a short time, you have likely found it necessary to start hiring employees. As soon as you have an employee, you assume a number of responsibilities and obligations. There are also any number of restrictions covering how you may interact with your employees.
When there was just one employee, consistency of how you handle various issues was usually not a problem. When an employment issue did arise, you would simply deal with it and get back to work.
Once there is more than one employee, however, it is important to establish set policies. Dealing with issues as they arise will establish a series of precedents that become a de facto company policy. It is possible to establish policies as issues present themselves and try to remember how you handled the last instance, but at some point, it’s likely that your memory will fail you.
Obviously, it is best to be able to deal with employee situations on a consistent basis. In order to be able to do that, it’s best to have a formal written employee/company policy. A written policy has the additional benefit of avoiding having to negotiate each situation that arises.
It isn’t necessary to start from scratch to write an employee policy; there are a number of resources available to assist you. The key is to get started and recognize that this is a document that will be constantly refined and updated as new situations arise. By adding these “tweaks” to the policy, you can ensure that when the same, or a similar, situation arises in the future, you will be able to address it in a consistent manner.
An employee policy is a blending of law and common sense. One place to look at for the legal elements is your state department of labor. It is usually this agency that deals with work hours, minimum wages, safety rules and compensation for work-related injuries. Another possible source is your peers, as well as trade associations. You are not the first employer to develop a company policy, and there’s nothing wrong with using a policy from someone else as a template.
Armed with this basic information, you are now ready to begin assembling your own company employee policy. Let’s look at the basic areas that it should cover.
The following is a suggestion for how to separate your policy into broad, meaningful sections:
- 1.00 Definition of employment
- 2.00 Conditions of employment
- 3.00 Payment and promotion procedures
- 4.00 Time off from work
- 5.00 Personal conduct
- 6.00 Employee benefits
Note that a numbering system was used to allow for insertion of more detailed explanations of various policy issues. For instance, funeral leave might be covered in section 4.60, etc.
Now, let’s briefly discuss some of the issues that might be covered in each of these categories.
1.00 Definition of Employment — You may wish to have a probationary and permanent classification for employees and, in addition, a temporary classification. Since other policy issues, such as benefits, vacations, etc., may differ for each group, these employee classifications must be defined carefully at the start.
It is advisable to define all employees as “at will” employees, reserving the right to terminate any employee with or without cause. If your policy does not specifically state this position, you may be open to wrongful termination charges.
2.00 Conditions of Employment — Some of the things to be covered here are attendance, scheduled working hours and what to do if someone is going to miss work. It should also cover scheduled work hours, as well as the policy toward flextime, and/or “comp” time.
3.00 Payment and Promotion Procedures — Detail in this section the timing of pay periods, procedures for time cards and when paydays will occur in relation to the end of pay periods. Additionally, in this section you should cover your position with regard to pay advances.
The company’s procedures for reviewing employee performance and adjusting salaries and wages should be explained in some detail here. It is important to indicate the timing of reviews so that employees know what to expect. It should be pointed out that “each employee will be paid according to their contribution to the company relative to all other employees.”
You should also cover what happens when an employee leaves the company’s employ. Likewise, you’ll want to cover what happens when a previously employed person returns to the company.
4.00 Time Off From Work — There are several separate reasons that employees are off from work and the company should address each of these:
- Sick leave
- Any other type of leave (maternity,
military, bereavement, etc.)
5.00 Personal Conduct — This area is probably one of the most important and sensitive areas that you will cover in your employee policy. It is here that you will detail the expectations regarding how employees act and react to circumstances that can affect how your company is perceived by its customers. In today’s social media-savvy world, this may also include how they conduct themselves personally on social media. Your policy may want to address the following:
- Personal business
- Alcohol and illegal drugs
- Smoking and tobacco
- Job site conduct
- Grounds for dismissal
- Sexual harassment
- Gratuities from suppliers
- Contributions and solicitations
- Employee use of company assets
- Employee purchases
6.00 Employee benefits — There may be many areas of benefits that should be described here briefly, with detailed descriptions for such things as the company’s group health program and any savings or retirement plans.
Once a draft of your policy is completed, it’s a good idea to consult with the appropriate professionals to ensure that the policy conforms to the various legal requirements that impact employer/employee relations.
At the end of the policy document there should be a place for the employee to sign, acknowledging that they have received, read and understood the policies set forth. You should retain a copy of this acknowledgment in the employee’s personnel file. Remember that if you make changes to the policy, you need to have a procedure for notifying all employees of these changes.
A comprehensive company policy will allow you to treat all employees fairly and consistently and help avoid misunderstandings. ▪