The workplace policy handbook – seven steps to success

Employee reading employee handbook

A workplace policy handbook is a great way to provide employees with everything they need to know.

It is an ideal reference tool when onboarding new recruits or for current employees with guidelines on anything from policies to company values. Whether you choose to have yours as a hard copy, digital format, or both, being tasked with writing it can be daunting. In New Zealand, it’s not a legal requirement, but a company handbook can answer many of the questions your employees may have. Here’s what you can include.

1. Company culture

What is it like to work for your business? Under company culture section you want to include an overview of what an employee can expect? For example: Do you have a culture that is about fostering an environment that celebrates diversity, creativity, and collaboration? Do you believe in creating a workplace where everyone feels welcome and respected? Are the core values of your business focused on providing a safe, supportive environment that allows your team members to reach their full potential? Are you about creating an atmosphere of trust and integrity?

2. Company policies

Before you get started on this section, it’s a good idea to write a list of all company policies and work out whether they’re going to seriously weigh down your handbook. Company policies can include attendance, personnel records, pay days, dress code, overtime, hours of work and more. Is it best to include these or to produce summaries for each with a link to full policies? A digital handbook will allow you greater freedom here.

3. Social media, email, and internet use

Navigating fair use of social media, emails and the internet can be challenging for both employers and employees. Does your company have clear guidelines on what’s considered appropriate or inappropriate? Are there rules around having social media apps open? And does your company have software that tracks employee usage? Having clear information in a handbook that employees can refer to ensures transparency and communicates to employees what is and what isn’t acceptable.

4. Employee benefits

Perhaps your business offers health insurance or annual bonuses. Maybe you provide birthday leave or an annual training budget. Dedicating a section in your handbook to key benefits will help guide new employees as they navigate their new working environment. As with the policies section of your handbook, it’s wise to first consider how extensive your benefits are and whether it’s viable to include these in your handbook. If not, a summary of each with directions to more information will suffice.

5. Employee behaviour/code of conduct

Whilst you may have several policies that touch on employee behaviour – it’s helpful to have a section that very clearly outlines how you expect your employees to behave. This should be underpinned by your mission statement and reflect the company’s core values. It’s also important to outline how you expect your employees to behave at company events and any external events where they’re representing the business.

6. Employee rights

It’s important that all your employees know their rights, so use this section to communicate those. Whether it’s information on New Zealand employment law and what each employee is entitled to, or complaints processes, provide as much clarity as possible. Make it easy for employees to access documents they’re entitled to such as contracts. You can also provide links to government websites with information on New Zealand Employment Law.

7. Include discrimination policy

Discrimination can be a broad topic. It aligns with your policy on behaviour and conduct but should be included as a separate section. Discrimination polices cover, employee bullying, harassment, intolerance for other ethnicities, religious beliefs, age, or gender. It can also include a statement by the company about what being an equal opportunity employee means to the business and the promise they make to current and future employees.

Once completed remember to revisit and update the handbook regularly keeping staff informed of any changes. Guidelines, policies, and procedures can change over time and keeping your handbook updated will serve you and your team well.

We have created an editable ppt employee policy handbook to get you started. Ideas for what you can include are provided as a checklist at the back.

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