by lynne klein
In the past, you may have kept your handbook to a minimum for fear that employees wouldn’t read a novel-size document. You likely only included basic starter polices – code of conduct, anti-discrimination efforts and termination procedures.
However, if you’ve experienced company growth or management challenges in the past few years, these policies may not be enough. To better protect your employees and business, it may be time to add a few new policies.
Here are five optional, but relevant, HR policies you should consider adding to the next version of your employee handbook.
- Dress code policy
Adding a dress code policy to your employee handbook does not only make it easier to talk to employees who may not be following the policy, but it also gives them a better understanding of what is or isn’t acceptable workplace attire. It can help managers maintain a consistent approach to the issue, which will reduce any negative repercussions or problems going forward.
When creating a dress code policy:
- Ensure it’s consistent with both your company culture and clients’ expectations.
- Don’t go too extreme with specifics about the length of shorts, dresses and other attire.
- If relevant to the job, consider including expectations regarding hygiene, grooming, tattoos and piercings.
- Make sure it’s written so that everyone gets treated the same.
- In some cases, religious accommodations may be made with consideration to both personal and company expectations.
- Employee dating policy
While you want to encourage a friendly, comfortable atmosphere, an employee dating policy can help your company avoid distractions and office conflicts.
Some managers may be uncomfortable telling employees what to do on their off time. Therefore, a formal policy can help them initiate the conversation and handle it properly.
Make it clear that the company isn’t interested in controlling your employees’ personal lives or inhibiting employee interaction. The purpose of the policy is to avoid misunderstandings, conflicts of interest, complaints of favoritism, negative employee morale and potential claims of sexual harassment.
Common stipulations that companies include in an employee dating policy are:
- Workplace romances are discouraged
- If employees become involved, they cannot report to one another, cannot be of significantly different rank and cannot work in the same department
- Couples must keep it professional and not act like a couple at work – no PDA or fighting
- Outlined consequences for breaking these rules
- Flexible work arrangement policy
If you’re getting a significant amount of requests for job flexibility (e.g., telecommuting, flextime) from employees, it may be time to put a formal policy in place so that everyone is treated fairly.
With careful planning and a clear policy for supervisors and employees, you can make sure productivity isn’t jeopardized and decisions are unbiased.
A well-written flexible work arrangement policy should define the following:
- The types of job flexibility – Only include what you’re willing to offer on a fair and consistent basis (e.g., flextime, telecommuting, compressed workweeks).
- Who’s eligible – Make it clear that eligibility is based on whether a flexible work arrangement meets the business needs of your employees’ work environment.
- A request and review process – Create a set of procedures regarding how proposed flexible work arrangements gain approval, including steps for employees and supervisors to follow.
- Guidelines that all parties can understand – Provide some general recommendations for making any job flexibility arrangement more workable, such as trial periods, how to communicate the arrangement to relevant departments and how to adapt job tasks to the new plan.
- Gifts and favors policy
Gift giving and favors can quickly create a conflict of interest between your vendors and employees with purchasing responsibilities, your customers and sales reps, and your hiring managers and job candidates.
A formal gifts and favors handbook policy can provide guidance on purchasing, sales and hiring negotiations so that decisions are based on business (not personal) interests.
A solid gifts and favors policy communicates:
- Agreements with vendors; customers and/or potential employees should not be influenced by promises of gifts and favors.
- What kinds of courtesy gifts and favors are OK to accept (e.g., business lunches, tickets to sporting or cultural events, holiday baskets, flowers, etc.) depending on what’s customary for your industry.
- Acceptable market value of gifts.
- Where to go for guidance when needed.
- Employee complaint-resolution policy
An employee complaint resolution policy and process provides your employees with a constructive way to voice their concerns. While they will appreciate the chance to be heard, this also gives you the opportunity to address conflicts you might not otherwise have known about, allowing you to diffuse workplace distractions sooner.
And should an employee relations issue erupt, a complaint-resolution policy in your employee handbook (which should always include an acknowledgment page for employees to sign) can help your company defend itself in the event an employee files a regulatory charge or lawsuit.
An effective employee complaint-resolution policy should:
- Identify key points of contact. Appoint a qualified person or committee to be the primary point of contact for handling employee complaints; be sure to include that person’s contact information in your employee handbook.
- Outline the steps employees should take prior to filing a complaint.
- Explain how complaints are investigated and handled.
These little-known employee handbook policies can go a long way toward preventing HR headaches and reducing employer liabilities.