Importance of HR Policies

by Rowena Odina; Updated September 26, 2017
Two businesswomen talking to each other in an office

Human resources policies provide the framework by which employees are expected to behave in the workplace. These policies are written statements of the company’s standards and objectives and include all areas of employment, including recruitment, compensation, termination, benefits, employee relations and leaves of absence. They contain rules on how employees must perform their jobs and interact with each other. Managers, employees and the HR department all have roles in ensuring that HR policies are effectively implemented.

Purpose

HR policies ensure that a company complies with relevant legislation, employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements. These policies reduce the risk of corporate liability or employee lawsuits. HR policies address areas critical to the company mission, ensuring operational efficiency. They clarify expectations of performance and behavior and help create the desired workplace culture. On the other hand, HR policies protect employees from arbitrary and discriminatory actions by management. Employees can refer to the policy manual in case of conflict or disagreement.

Features

Policies contain general guidelines for behavior, which employees are usually asked to acknowledge in a written form. They also define consequences if the rules aren't followed, such as various forms of disciplinary action, including termination. As policies may not cover all situations, they should provide management with the flexibility to make decisions based on individual circumstances. Organizations may have varying sets of HR policies for different groups of employees. Senior management has the authority to approve policies for implementation.

HR Role

The human resources department develops policies and communicates them to all employees. It provides all the forms and documents required for policy implementation. This department is also responsible for reviewing, adding, deleting or revising policies to ensure that they remain current with legislation or company needs. HR staff help interpret policies, ensuring that they're applied fairly and equitably throughout the organization. Staff members assist managers in applying policies to work situations such as hiring new employees, conducting performance appraisals or disciplining subordinates.

Employee Responsibilities

Employees are responsible for following the established norms of behavior. HR policies often set standards for working hours, attendance, workplace conduct, and health and safety. Policies on respect, anti-harassment and nondiscrimination provide guidelines in resolving workplace conflicts and handling complaints. This promotes a positive work environment, enhances working relationships and improves productivity. HR policies help employees better understand their benefits, salaries and employment conditions, thus reducing the incidence of grievances.

Management Tools

HR policies serve as a resource for dealing with various situations that occur in the workplace. They encourage managers to treat employees fairly and consistently. Policies on hiring, termination, performance evaluation and disciplinary action provide managers with the framework to manage staff. For example, managers must follow the procedures for progressive discipline when dealing with performance or behavioral problems. However, policies are often general in nature, allowing managers to respond as specific situations demand.

About the Author

Rowena Odina has been writing handbooks, manuals and employee communication pieces since 2002 as part of her human resources management functions. She specializes in writing about human resources topics. She has a certificate in human resources management from Seneca College and a certificate in payroll management from the Canadian Payroll Association.

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