What are workplace policies and why do I need them?

Team Management

Workplace policies give guidance to your employees about what you expect of them and can also state legislative requirements.

Even employees that are doing the right thing need to know what you expect of them, whether it is how to apply for leave or what they can and can’t wear to work.

Policies need to be reasonable. They need to ensure that employees are aware of what the policy means to them, their workmates and the business.


What policies should I have in my workplace?

This depends on the size of the business and the type of work.

Here are some policies that all businesses should have:

•   Code of conduct

•   Leave

•   Harassment & Bullying

•   Attendance and Absenteeism

•   Anti Discrimination & EEO

•   Performance & Misconduct

•   Grievance

•   Social Media

•   WHS

•   Workplace Bullying

•   Drug & Alcohol


Why do I need Workplace Policies?

Employees are given a clear indication of what is expected of them and what they can expect from their employer.

Workplace policies are useful when a legal dispute arises between an employer and an employee. Where the employer can refer to a policy to show that the employee should know what his or her responsibilities are, the employer is likely to be in a much stronger position before a court or tribunal.

Some employment related policies are needed to comply with legislation. For example: WHS, EEO, Harassment & Bullying.

Many workplace policies are not regulated by law, but are based on standards set by the employer in relation to behaviour in the workplace.

For example, a Code of Conduct deals with employees’ behaviour at work, dress standards, punctuality, alcohol, drugs, smoking, confidentiality, other employment, swearing in the workplace and statements to media.

Social media use is another emerging issue in the workplace and your employees need to be clear about what they can and can’t post on social media.


Case study:

A salesman hadn’t been correctly paid his commissions for a month.

He posted some threatening remarks on his Facebook status, which included a number of swear words. He didn’t mention the employer by name but he did have a number of co-workers in his group of Facebook friends.

The Fair Work Commission determined that “The fact that the comments were made on the applicant’s home computer, out of work hours, does not make any difference.” The comments were read by work colleagues and passed on to his supervisor.

The employee was terminated and his appeal to the Fair Work Commission was dismissed. This case demonstrates the need to have a clear Social Media policy to give employees guidance on the use of Social Media both at work and outside of work.

Workplace policies also advise employees in relation to their entitlements such as leave, attendance, overtime, use of company vehicles & mobile phones.

Well-developed workplace policies & procedures can give many benefits to the workplace. But, remember that they must be properly implemented. If your employees don’t know about the policies, they can’t be effective. Regular training should be given to ensure that your employees understand the policies.


Workplace policies enable you to treat your employees fairly and equally and help protect your business from unfair dismissal or bullying claims lodged to the Fair Work Commission.

Karen Hillen

Human Resources Specialist at

I'm passionate about helping businesses get the best out of their team and that staff are happy at work. I can act as your outsourced HR Manager & provide a comprehensive range of HR services including HR support & advice, training, HR documentation, policies & procedures, performance management. I have a strong background in employment relations, & I have over 20 years’ experience in human resources for public sector organisations, not-for-profits & private enterprises, mostly SMEs.

Comments (3)
Lina Barfoot

Lina Barfoot, Editor at SavvySME

Interesting article. So for the case study you mentioned, did the company in question have a social media policy in place?

Jef Lippiatt

Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

I believe that policies help both parties (company & employee). I do believe that they should be concise and in easy to understand terminology. This helps everyone have a common understanding (not just I've read it but am still confused). Also, I would say unless absolutely necessary don't a policy. Making a policy for every small detail goes from creating professional guidelines and workplaces to a confusing and spirit crushing burden for employees.

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