08 February 2017

Managing People #1 - Policy: The bedrock of your HR framework


Clear HR policies set the benchmark for your employees and organisation to perform at their best. Which are the most important policies that should be in place?

This is the start of a blog series where I shall cover four key topics for creating inspiring fantastic workplaces that brings out the best in your people, starting with policies.


There comes a point in any business when you need to rely on written policies in order to reinforce what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the business.

Your business or industry may need specific HR policies, and this is a selection of the most common ones

Acceptable and unacceptable conduct

We often assume that everyone thinks along the same lines of us, and standards of behaviour are ‘common sense’. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and having a clear policy helps everyone to spell out what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

Now more than ever, it is vital to get this right with the increase in inter-generational and cultural diversity in the workplace.

This policy usually contains explanations of conduct relating to:

  • Behaviour in the workplace
  • Respect for others
  • Handling money and finances
  • Diligence (working hard)
  • Conflict with the organisations interests

Often, the policy lists incidences of Serious Misconduct which may lead to instant dismissal, for example:

  • Theft
  • Dishonesty
  • Violence and abuse
  • Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Disciplinary policy

Your disciplinary policy sets out the steps you will take if an employee is in breach of your code of conduct.

  • If you dismiss an employee, you need to make sure you follow the correct procedure to avoid an unfair dismissal claim to Fair Work.
  • If you are a small business (with 15 employees or under), your disciplinary policy must at least comply with the Small Business Dismissal Code. If you are a larger business, your Disciplinary Policy should contain an escalation of verbal and written warnings through to dismissal.

The Disciplinary Policy should give the employee the right to have the allegations put to them, and the right to respond. They should also be given notice of any meetings and the opportunity to bring a support person with them.

Besides a disciplinary policy, most companies will also want to have specific policies for staff conduct at work and in public. These are some examples:

Internet and email

  • Clarify when it is acceptable for staff to access the Internet via work or personal devices and during work hours.
  • Clarify what websites and content are acceptable.
  • Clarify what content is unacceptable for distribution via company email.

Social media

  • Clarify what posts are acceptable on behalf of the company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Clarify your expectations regarding personal Facebook accounts which refer to your company.

Evidence from Social Media in discipline/dismissal cases has been the subject of a great deal of recent case law.

For example, in a recent case*, Fair Work held that dismissal by the Company was fair. The employee had posted abusive and threatening comments on his personal Facebook page about his employer. Fair Work ruled that as these comments could be seen by at least some of his co-workers, it was reasonable to dismiss the employee for breach of the Company’s code of conduct.

Vehicle use

  • Clarify when a vehicle can be used for business and personal travel.
  • Clarify the condition the vehicle should be kept in (i.e., garaged, cleanliness).
  • Clarify any usage which is strictly unacceptable, e.g., off road, for hire.

One of my clients recently had an experience where an employee used a company vehicle on the beach . . . unfortunately the tide came in and the vehicle was written off. Because the policy was clear, the company was able to dismiss the employee without notice.

Drugs and alcohol

It’s a fact of life that many employees are abusers of alcohol or illicit drugs. This could have tragic consequences if they are driving or using machinery.

  • If you have a drug and alcohol testing policy, clarify who can be tested and in what circumstances (e.g., routine/with cause/random testing).
  • Clarify what steps would be taken if there is a positive drug or alcohol test.


Your HR policies are a framework to guide managers and staff. They are also a safety net to protect you and your organisation if things go wrong with staff.

In my next blog, let’s chat about employee engagement. What are the different types of employees you can identify in the workplace, and how do you spot which ones will contribute, and which won't?

To receive more practical tips on how you can manage employee performance effectively, download our eBook, which also provides all the answers to more than 10 excellent questions from our live webinar, and some insightful poll results.

We welcome you to download our eBook 'Managing People to Maximise Performance'.

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*O’Keefe v Williams Muir’s Pty Ltd T/A Troy Williams The Good Guys