Personnel policies include key information that gives your small business some guidance on personnel management and serves as documentation that can provide some protection when employees present grievances. In addition to serving as handy decision-making tools, your personnel policies share basic terms of employment and help educate staff on proper conduct, safety and discipline. When creating your personnel policies, tailor them to your business and get input from other staff before finalizing them for your employee handbook.


Personnel policies serve as a reference for both employees and managers on how to behave at work, answer common human resources questions, handle complaints and disciplinary problems, and promote safety and health.

What Is a Personnel Policy?

Personnel policies communicate to managers and employees the terms for expected employment conduct. They also convey key information about record-keeping, workplace safety and health, benefits and compensation systems, relevant employment laws, employee scheduling and performance management.

Note that personnel policies differ from personnel procedures. Policies simply describe the rules to follow and offer some guidance without dictating how you administrate them. On the other hand, procedures give you concrete steps to take to follow a policy in your business.

You'll likely dedicate several sections in your employment manual to covering personnel policies by category. You can also communicate policies verbally, post them on an employee portal or take advantage of visual aids like posters and signs as needed.

Why Companies Need Personnel Policies

In addition to letting employees know how they should act on the job, personnel policies help managers handle disciplinary issues and can provide companies some legal protection. For example, these policies lay out the employee conduct rules that managers can reference when determining the need for actions, such as warnings and terminations. They also address laws regarding at-will employment, workplace harassment, job safety, the formation of unions and nondiscrimination in hiring that can prevent confusion and avoid potential legal issues and fines.

Having personnel policies can also ensure that fair treatment is standard in your company and that employee morale remains high. Without clear policies on issues such as attendance, compensation and work performance, managers may show bias and let some workers get away with behaviors while others face discipline. The organization and fairness that policies offer help ensure the workplace runs more smoothly with less frustration among workers.

General Employment Policies

Some of the elements of personnel policy fall under the category of general employment terms. This includes topics such as job requirements, compensation, scheduling, performance management and hiring and firing.

  • Hiring: Personnel policies for hiring can include those for background checks, orientation and pre-employment health and drug screening. Your hiring policies should also clarify that your company doesn't use age, disability, gender or other protected characteristics to discriminate in its hiring practices and that it verifies workers for eligibility to work in the United States.

  • Termination: These policies encompass grounds for termination including any disciplinary steps taken beforehand as well as procedures, such as the removal of system access and return of company property, for employees leaving the company. If leaving voluntarily, employees should know how to give notice and whether they receive any unused benefits.

  • Job roles: This includes topics such as non-exempt vs. exempt employee classification, procedures for promotion and transfer, clarification of job duties, length of employment (if temporary), allowance of overtime and policies for on-call or remote work.

  • Scheduling: Scheduling policies give insight on whether employees will have set, flexible or rotating shifts, how many hours of work they can expect, how many days off they get, whether they can swap shifts and when schedules are published. They also indicate policies for requesting vacation time or days off as well as asking for an extended leave.

  • Performance assessment: This includes the quality and performance expectations for employees as well as the types of performance reviews and their frequency.

  • Record-keeping: This covers the storage of personnel files, including personal data and performance reviews, who can access them and what usage is appropriate.

  • Conflict resolution: Your company's personnel policies should explain how managers and employees should handle conflicts, including the use of reporting processes and formal meetings and how to respond to unresolved issues.

  • Compensation: Policies for compensation explain which pay systems the company uses, how often employees receive payment, which payment methods are available and how pay increases work. Provisions for any special pay, such as for irregular hours or holidays, and reimbursement for expenses are also important.

  • Benefits: Detailed policies should explain benefits — including retirement options, insurance plans, paid time off, tuition reimbursement and any special employee assistance — along with how to qualify and request them.

Employee Behavior Policies

The objectives of HR policies covering employee behavior are to show how employees should act on the job as well as how they represent your company.

  • Attendance: Since missed work creates productivity and morale issues, your personnel policies should explain that frequent tardiness or absence isn't acceptable and refer to the company's disciplinary system's way of handling incidents. They should also provide expectations for reporting missed work due to illness or emergency and any documentation needed.

  • Dress code: Whether you allow employees to dress casually or wear more formal attire, your dress code should make it clear what types of clothing and accessories are acceptable. This can include discussion on inappropriate graphics or symbols on clothes and any restrictions on attire for employee safety purposes.
  • Technology and internet use: Your personnel policies need to address how employees should use electronics in the office in terms of frequency of use, security procedures and care of such items. It should also spell out any social media policies to prevent workers from posting negative or inaccurate claims about the company online.

  • Professionalism: Employees should know how to act professionally at work, including following all laws, treating others with respect, avoiding harassing behaviors, avoiding conflicts of interest and corruption and using appropriate communication.

  • Job performance: Personnel policies on job performance can include specific performance expectations and metrics employees need to meet as well as consequences for underperformance.

  • Substance use: Your policies should also mention a ban on alcohol and drug use in the workplace and procedures you might have for substance use tests. You may also restrict employees from using tobacco as an employment term — more common for settings such as hospitals and doctors' offices — although pay attention to state laws that could prohibit this.

Workplace Safety and Health Policies

Personnel policies on safety include preventative measures staff should take to reduce job hazards. Such policies might specify safe equipment operation, materials handling, unsafe work condition reports, use of protective personal gear, the importance of breaks and posture and measures to reduce workplace stress.

They should also give guidance on handling accidents, workplace violence and natural disasters. Your policies should make it clear the immediate actions employees should take when they witness or are a victim of harassment, violence or an accident. This includes instructions on who to report to and how to get medical help or security involved.

Employee Disciplinary Policies

Personnel management policies also include those that explain how your company's disciplinary system works in terms of steps followed and consequences that result from inappropriate employee behavior. These policies should indicate which categories of behaviors warrant disciplinary action, which factors the company considers in the process and how disciplinary processes may change based on the seriousness of the issue.

Employees should know each step in your company's progressive discipline system, including any cautions and warnings that occur before actions like suspension and termination of employment. They should also know when and if these cautions and warnings fall off their records.