Dreaded Workplace Policies - An Essential bore!

Regardless of your business size, once you have employees its critical to your business growth and ongoing success in business to have proper Workplace policies in place. Well-written Workplace policies are the starting point for setting expectations for your organisational values, acceptable and unacceptable employee behaviours and performance and the implications for not complying with these policies.

As a business owner, without proper Workplace policies in place, how do you know all of your employees know what is expected of them in relation to everything.... such as personal emails at work, social media, mobile phone usage or calling in sick?  One of your employees may think its ok to answer personal text messages during work time, where you may not agree with this practice as it distracts them from their responsibilities and messages should only be responded to during breaks. In other workplaces this may be all a-ok!

This may seem like common sense to some, however without clearly defined expectations you may also be leaving yourself open to unnecessary attention from the likes of the Fair Work Commission, Workplace Health & Safety and Workcover authorities. And... this can lead to investigations, lost time, lost income and avoidable fines. Add to this the cost of asking us to hold your hand through it. All too often we are suggesting to clients to be proactive... spend a few dollars now to save a whole heap later when an unexpected event arises. 

Here are some real life examples to help make it real.

1) An employee was recently reinstated into his role after being sacked by his employer for making racist comments to another employee. The Fair Work Commission ordered the employer to reinstate the employee, as their workplace conduct guidelines were not clear in their HR policies, in particular what is and is not acceptable behaviour.

2) An employee was recently awarded $28k + superannuation for unfair dismissal for refusing to take a drug test at the workplace (after an allegation they were under the influence of drugs). The Fair Work Commission determined that the workplace policies relating to drugs and alcohol were not clear; the process followed for the dismissal was not considered fair; and the reasons given were not consistent and clear. 

Some of the common Workplace Policies needed by businesses include:

  • Code of Conduct
  • Social Media, Internet and Email usage
  • Mobile Phone Use
  • Drug, Alcohol and Smoking
  • Anti-Discrimination and Harassment
  • Grievance Handling
  • Discipline and Termination of Employment
  • Bullying and Harassment
  • Vehicle Use 

With Workplace Health and Safety policies, it is important to have clear and well written guidelines so that your business can demonstrate you are addressing your health and safety obligations and creating a safe working environment for your employees.  As with general workplace policies, those that address Workplace Health and Safety guide employees in the safe way to carry out their duties and defining what is unacceptable behaviour in the workplace. 

Unfortunately WHS has become a bit of a compliance mindfield. For example, if you are in the trade services industry, when you induct a qualified tradesmen into your business you will need to show them how to climb a ladder!  Seems crazy, but it is the reality of the environment businesses operate in. Small business is likely to experience financial instability if faced with issues around poor Workplace Health and Safety practices. We have a great article we wrote years ago that will no doubt scare you into ensuring you dot your i's and cross your t's. You can read it here

A breach to workplace Health and Safety law differs depending on your state, but it may occur when:

  •          A person is put at risk of an injury
  •          Illness or death occurs
  •          Steps are not taken to avoid a risky situation
  •          Failure to comply with regulatory requirements

In 2014 a company with an impeccable safety record was fined $1,500 and ordered to pay costs of $2,309 after failing to correctly report a worker had suffered an injury. Whilst the company was not charged with any offences and through the investigation it was noted the business was a good corporate citizen with a history of safe practices, ignorance of their obligations in reporting the incident was not an acceptable reason for the oversight. In this situation, it was reported the maximum fine for this type of offence was $40,000. Could you imagine that? 

Whether you have 1 employee or 1,000, it is imperative to the ongoing success of your business that you have well written Workplace and Health & Safety Policies. Need Help? Get in touch with Loren at Sync or Swim today!