How to Write a Policy Statement

by Christina Hamlett - Updated September 26, 2017

In a perfect business world, employees would not need a written sheet of "dos and don'ts" regarding your expectations of their behavior, work habits and ethics. Unfortunately, the law books are replete with cases involving workers who have sued their employers for wrongful termination on the grounds that they were never told it was inappropriate to play games on the computer, sell their office furniture or pilfer supplies. Here's how to write policy statements that will ensure everyone plays by the same rules.

Identify a personnel problem that needs to be addressed. This can be either a problem that exists (i.e., dress code violations, absenteeism) or a potential problem that could arise from an upcoming merger, downsizing, outsourcing or the introduction of a new product or service.

Assemble an informal committee comprising your HR person, an attorney and representatives of the group that will be directly affected by the new policy.

Explain to the group why you feel a new policy is necessary. To use the example of a dress code, the argument could be made that employees need to project a professional image of the company in order to attract and retain customers. If customers perceive that the employees have not put any time or care into their appearance, they may wonder if such sloppiness is going to extend to the handling of their insurance policy or sale of their house.

Solicit feedback from the committee on how the problem can be resolved. For instance, the suggestion might be made that male employees are allowed to wear open shirts but that they must always have a coat and tie available for meetings with clients. Other ideas might be to designate one day a week (i.e., "Casual Friday") for a relaxed dress code or to allow employees who don't have any customer contact to define what type of apparel would best accommodate their working conditions.

Review the suggestions and select those that are the most workable. Go back to the committee with this list and invite discussion on (1) which one represents the best compromise and (2) how the policy will be enforced.

Outline your policy. The opening statement should explain in clear, uncluttered language why the policy is important. The second section should state what the new policy is, whom it affects and what date it will take effect. If there are several components of the policy (i.e., a list of apparel that will no longer be acceptable), use bullet points so that these will stand out. The third portion of the policy should explain how the policy will be enforced and the consequences for violating it.

Review the draft of your policy statement with your HR person and attorney to ensure that all bases have been covered and that the language is easy to understand.

Determine how the new policy statement is going to be disseminated to employees. The most popular format is an office memo distributed through regular channels. Unfortunately, this approach can leave you open to an employee insisting that she or he either never saw it or that it got thrown out by accident. To address this scenario, you may want to include a signature line for each employee below the statement "I acknowledge receipt of and understanding of this policy." Distribute two copies. Ask them to sign and return one of them and keep the second on file or in their employee manual.


  • The consequences of violating a company policy should be consistent with the degree of severity. For minor infractions, this could be something as simple as a letter of reprimand placed in the worker's personnel file, a dock in pay or the withdrawal of a privilege. For acts more serious such as substance abuse, theft or compromising the integrity of the company, the result would be termination and, in some cases, the filing of criminal charges.

About the Author

Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.

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