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Policies and Procedures in the Workplace: The Ultimate Guide

Developing and enforcing strong policies and procedures improves workplace culture and protects your organization from potential lawsuits.

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According to a study by Covestro, 71 per cent of executives say employees’ desire for purpose is “prompting HR to rethink certain work policies such as paid time-off for volunteer or community work, flextime and/or telecommuting.”

Organizations need to develop or improve work policies and procedures that reflect their vision, values and culture as well as the needs of their employees. Once they are in place, enforcing these guidelines is even more important. However, accomplishing these goals can be tougher than it sounds.


Without strong policies and procedures in place, you may experience more workplace issues.

Case management software helps you identify and monitor areas of risk in your organization, including harassment, discrimination, safety and misconduct. Download our free eBook to learn more.

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What are Policies and Procedures?

Policies and procedures go hand-in-hand but are not interchangeable.

policy is a set of general guidelines that outline the organization’s plan for tackling an issue. Policies communicate the connection between the organization’s vision and values and its day-to-day operations.

procedure explains a specific action plan for carrying out a policy. Procedures tells employees how to deal with a situation and when.

Using policies and procedures together gives employees a well-rounded view of their workplace. They know the type of culture that the organization is striving for, what behavior is expected of them and how to achieve both of these.


RELATED: Employee Handbook Updates


The Importance of Policies and Procedures

Regardless of your organization’s size, developing formal policies and procedures can make it run much more smoothly and efficiently. They communicate the values and vision of the organization, ensuring employees understand exactly what is expected of them in certain situations.

Because both individual and team responsibilities are clearly documented, there is no need for trial-and-error or micromanaging. Upon reading the workplace policies and procedures, employees should clearly understand how to approach their jobs.

Formal policies and procedures save time and stress when handling HR issues. The absence of written policies results in unnecessary time and effort spent trying to agree on a course of action. With strict guidelines already in place, employees simply have to follow the procedures and managers just have to enforce the policies.

Implementing these documents also improves the way an organization looks from the outside. Formal policies and procedures help to ensure your company complies with relevant regulations. They also demonstrate that organizations are efficient, professional and stable. This can lead to stronger business relationships and a better public reputation.


How to Develop Policies and Procedures in the Workplace

When creating a policy or procedure for your workplace, start by reviewing the mission statement, vision and values. According to the New South Wales Government Industrial Relations, “a workplace policy should:

  • set out the aim of the policy
  • explain why the policy was developed
  • list who the policy applies to
  • set out what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior
  • set out the consequences of not complying with the policy
  • provide a date when the policy was developed or updated”


Once you implement your policies and procedures, the next step is to inform and train employees on them. You can’t expect employees to follow guidelines if they aren’t aware of them. Be sure to schedule regular refresher training sessions, too, to keep employees on track.

Paychex WORX says that “employees may be more likely to embrace rules when they understand their purpose and that they are not meant to be a form of control or punishment.” For this reason, keep a positive attitude during training sessions and leave plenty of time for employee questions.

Company policies and procedures should not be written once and left alone for decades. Reviewing these documents regularly and updating them when necessary is key to their success. In addition to an annual review, consider updating them when you:

  • adopt new equipment, software, etc.
  • see an increase in accidents or failures on-site
  • experience increased customer complaints
  • have a feeling of general confusion or increased staff questions regarding day-to-day operations
  • see inconsistency in employee job performance
  • feel increased stress levels across the office

Need help to improve work policies and procedures in your organization?

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Types of Policies and Procedures Every Workplace Needs

Organizations need policies and procedures for a wide range of HR topics. Below are some of the subjects you should consider creating guidelines for.


Polices and Procedures for Attendance

Absenteeism costs wages for the employee who doesn’t show up, wages for a replacement worker, and delays and disruptions to the whole organization. That’s why you need to write (and consistently apply) attendance policies.

These documents can include guidelines on tardiness, vacation time, sick leave, appointments and paid volunteer hours. You can also include the amount of notice required before booking time off. Take your corporate culture into consideration when developing these rules.


Policies and Procedures for Employee Conduct

This is a broad topic and may require multiple, separate policies. Including guidelines on drugs and alcohol use, smoking, performance management and discipline helps employees know what is and is not acceptable behavior at work.


Policies and Procedures for Use of Company Property

The number of ways employees can misuse company property is never-ending. “Renting out the company’s equipment to third parties, intentionally producing scrap product that is actually being sold by the employee, taking vehicles for recreation, hosting their own websites on company servers, even directing other employees to preform tasks that unknowingly benefit the ghost business” are just a few examples of risks your organization could face, according to ASG Investigations.

Employees have to use company property in order to do their jobs. Depending on your industry, this could include electronics, medical equipment, vehicles, tools and uniforms. Include guidelines on how to care for company property, as well as how much (if any) and what types of personal use are permitted using company property.


Policies and Procedures for Harassment and Discrimination

Did you know that the average harassment lawsuit costs the employer $250,000 to defend? With rules in place, you can prevent these incidents and protect both your company and your employees.

Harassment and discrimination affect the entire workplace culture. Keep employees safe and treat them fairly by developing policies and procedures that prohibit behaviors such as:

  • sexual harassment
  • bullying
  • verbal and physical harassment
  • stalking
  • hiring discrimination
  • workplace discrimination


Include information on how to report harassment and discrimination and explain that the company will not retaliate for reporting.


Policies and Procedures for Internet and Social Media Use

Make employees aware that any internet use at work is not private. Urge employees to limit personal internet use and ensure everything they do online in the workplace is legal, ethical and appropriate (and explain what these mean). Add guidelines about what is and is not appropriate to post on social media regarding your organization as well.


RELATED: 16 Tips for Managing Social Media in the Workplace to Help You Avoid Scandals


Policies and Procedures for Health and Safety

In 2020, OSHA awarded workers $30.1 million in settlements, nearly double the total from the year before. Without strong health and safety policies that are actually enforced, your employees and your organization are at risk.

Protecting employees’ safety and well-being should be every organization’s top priority. When writing your health and safety policies, include information about how to deal with illness or injury at work, equipment safety guidelines and how to report a health or safety concern. Also include procedures to follow in the event of a fire or natural disaster.


Policies and Procedures for Expenses

If your employees travel or purchase things for work, having an expense reimbursement policy in place is essential. Explain what types of expenses are acceptable for reimbursement (airfare class, transportation, meals, etc.). Include procedures on how to submit a reimbursement claim.


Policies and Procedures for Remote Work

With a desire for more flexibility in location and hours, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies and employees are choosing to work remotely at least some of the time. If you allow employees to work from home, you need two main policies to ensure the set-up is safe and runs smoothly.

First, a general remote work policy should describe who can work remotely and how often. What hours do remote workers need to be available? What communication standards must they meet? Will you provide necessary work equipment or reimburse employees for their purchases?

In addition, include health and safety procedures for remote work in either your remote work policy or your regular health and safety policy. These should address how you’ll handle potential ergonomic issues, environment-caused injuries and illnesses, mental health, and fire and weather emergencies.


Not sure what to include?

Download our free remote work policy template to get started.

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Why You Need to Enforce Policies and Procedures

Company policies and procedures are helpful for making your workplace run more efficiently, but they are only effective if you enforce them. Enforcement of the guidelines guarantees your organization’s operational procedures and decision-making processes are uniform and consistent across cases.

When you don’t enforce your procedures, you put your organization at risk. If an employee or external person comes forward with an allegation against your company, having formal policies and procedures in place strengthens your case.


RELATED: Employee Policy Manuals: What to Include in Your Annual Review


For example, say someone sues your organization for hiring discrimination, claiming that they were not given a job they interviewed for because they have a disability. Having an anti-discrimination policy in place is a strong piece of evidence in your defense.

Or, say that you refuse to reimburse a first-class plane ticket an employee bought to get to a conference. Pointing out that first-class airfare is not eligible for expense reimbursement and having proof of this in your policy protects your organization from legal actions and reputation damage.

Without formal policies and procedures, your organization may not be reaching its potential. Improve work policies and procedures so that they reflect your workplace’s values to create a better environment for all employees.



What is an example of a policy and a procedure?

An example of a policy could be an organization’s stance on workplace harassment, outlining what behavior is unacceptable and the consequences for violating the policy. Its corresponding procedure might detail the steps an employee should take to report a harassment incident, including who to contact and how the investigation process will unfold.


How do you organize policies and procedures?

Policies and procedures can be organized by grouping them into categories based on their subject matter (e.g., attendance, employee conduct, company property use, harassment and discrimination, internet and social media use, health and safety, expenses remote work). Each category can then contain individual policies and procedures relevant to that topic, creating an easy-to-read resource for employees to reference as they need.


What is an example of a policy in the workplace?

An example of a policy in the workplace is an attendance policy, which should contain guidelines regarding tardiness, vacation time, sick leave, appointments, and paid volunteer hours, among other related matters.