Improving Your HR Policies and Procedures

By Junel Seet

March 19, 2021

HR policies

Running a successful business is more than making a good profit margin and the products it delivers. The foundation of your company is the people who run it, and taking care of them is central to your success. Meet the human resources department!

Good HR policies lay the foundation for a well-run company. They address your employees’ needs, set standards of behavior, and answer all of those big and small questions, from “what’s an appropriate amount of time to take for lunch” to “how many days off do you get for a death in the family?” They provide procedures for discipline, ensuring each employee gets standard, fair treatment, informed by history and logic rather than office politics. Great HR policies withstand the test of time, maintaining order even when leadership shifts.

Despite the gravity of a good HR policy, at far too many companies this exists only as a PDF that you scroll through on your first day or the stack of notes you bury in a file cabinet. Policies like these rarely reach their full potential and are not kept in mind. We’ll give you some tips on how to improve this and share some examples you can use.

The Basics

Here are the basic HR policies you need to have for your company:

At-Will Employment

  • This clause says that both the employer and employee can end the employment at any time as long as it’s for a legal reason. It is required in most states.

Attendance Policy

  • Include the time the office opens and closes, whether remote work is permissible and the necessary procedures for taking time off.

Access To Personal Records

  • In this section, detail how long human resources hangs onto personal documents.

Benefits Options

  • Cover options relating to health insurance, 401k contributions, stock options, parental leave, and the like.

Breaks and Lunch Policy

  • Each office culture differs in terms of eating lunch at the desk versus taking a leisurely break, but this should cover what full and part-time employees are legally allocated.

Breastfeeding Accommodations

  • Most employers are required by federal law to provide a private place (other than the bathroom) for nursing mothers to express milk whenever they need to for up to one year after the birth of their child.

Dress Code

  • Business casual, business professional, or just clothed? Spell it out.

Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy

  • This clause is required by law, but it should also be put into practice.

Employment Classification

  • This policy lists the details of full time, part-time, and freelance employment and delineates the benefits, pay, and hours for each.

Cell Phone Policy

  • These days many people use their phones in their work tasks. If you expect phones to be put away, for confidentiality or other reasons, make it clear.

Confidentiality Agreement

  • Never skimp on details when it comes to protecting confidential information. Outline procedures for handling, transferring and destroying all confidential information, how to document each step, as well as consequences for violating procedures.

Leave And Time Off

  • Explain the difference between vacation, personal and sick days, how many are offered, how to request and document them, and whether there are blackout days on which they cannot be used. For example, many teachers can’t take time off on either end of a vacation week or on the first or last day of school.

Reasonable Accommodations Requests

  • Companies are required by law to accommodate reasonable requests for disability or religious reasons. Make sure employees are aware of this, and document any attempts to meet their needs.

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Social Media Policy

  • What is your company’s policy on social media use? Do you require employees to have a robust social media presence, or are they subject to monitoring? For example, journalists are expected not to publicly broadcast their political affiliations. Be clear about protecting confidential information.

Safety And Health

  • Most offices don’t come with a high risk of injury, beyond maybe carpal tunnel. If your employees are doing physical labor, you may want to include information on how to prevent and report injuries.

Gift Policy

  • Elaborate on when and how your employees can receive gifts from clients or explain why it might be prohibited. Many industries like journalism, teaching, and law usually have policies against accepting gifts due to possible conflicts of interest.

Timekeep and Pay

Funeral/ Bereavement Leave

  • In most cases funeral leave falls under personal days, but if you wish to differentiate you may do it here.

Performance And Discipline Documentation

  • Employers should always document performance reviews and any disciplinary measures. These are critical should a former employee levy an unlawful termination suit.

Business Expenses

  • If your employees travel or take clients out you should outline how they can document business expenses, and whether they need to use a company card or be reimbursed.

How To Improve Current HR Policies

There are some common problems we see HR departments face, and these are some ways you can change that with your work policies.

Make Time Off More Flexible

  • If you can’t offer a competitive salary, a great way to attract talent is by offering greater or more flexible vacation days. As a general rule, let employees take personal and sick days when they need. Being too draconian in your regulation of them will lower morale and can end up doing more harm than good in terms of productivity. Some companies allow employees to cash in on unused vacation days, or donate them to employees for say, their honeymoon or the birth of a child.

Make Sure Everyone Knows The Policies

  • Policies don’t work if people don’t know them. Hold annual meetings to review updates in policies and benefits packages, and make sure the employee handbook is incorporated into the onboarding process in a way that doesn’t make it easy to scroll past.

Invest In Health

  • There are many ways to invest in your employees’ health beyond offering health insurance. You can offer corporate discounts on gym memberships, in-office flu shots or an office-wide exercise class. Healthy employees are present employees.

Accommodate Parents

  • You might meet state and federal laws for family leave, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re accommodating their needs. Research shows that parents are more productive at work than non-parents, and forcing people to pretend they don’t have kids only makes their longevity at your company less likely. Accommodating isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s the best thing for your business. To start, offer robust parental leave for men and women, whether they’re giving birth or adopting. Make nursing rooms are actually accessible and cleaned regularly. That means the basement closet with no internet service won’t cut it. Allow for remote work sometimes, and if someone has a childcare emergency, trust that they’ll find another way to make up the work.
Junel Seet
Junel Seet

Junel is passionate about all things IoT.