Why have an employment handbook!

Is an Employment handbook a waste of time or money?

We all have heard about an employment handbook, its that folder with printed words in it that collects dust and is situated on the top shelf in the corner of the lunchroom. It has big, bold writing on it typed, “EMPLOYMENT HANDBOOK”. Now you remember! Yes, it was last edited in 1927. Time to dust off that Employment Handbook, make it real and stop wasting time with policies that are not concise, clear and that can be misinterpreted.

The purpose of an Employment Handbook in a business cannot be underestimated. A definite employment policy can resolve disputes before they arise and protect both the employer and the employee from any sort of misperception and the potential of litigation. But there is more…. Employment Handbooks express the vision and passion of a business, give clear direction as to the expectations of business, should be engaging and motivating. Sound like the one at your workplace?

Take the example of Mr Jones. Mr Jones works at Company X for the last 2 years. It is an ‘okay’ place to work except for one employee that every day plays some practical joke on Mr Jones that is simply humiliating and offensive. Mr Jones is teased about his sex life, or lack of and made mock of in front of his peers. Monday’s after the weekend are the worst. Mr Jones had raised this with the Director of Company X on several occasions, but nothing had changed, and the same jokes continue.

One day, Mr Jones googled for help and found the number for Fair Work Australia. He called Fair Work Australia and asked what could be done. They took down all the details of the complaint and contacted the Director at Company X. 

The Director was asked the following:
• Are you aware of this problem?
• Do you have a defined Anti-Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying policy in the workplace?
• Have you provided education to your employees about this topic?

These are the 3 keys questions any business will be asked if Fair Work Australia receives a complaint like what we have described. Well, have you?

The Director at Company X, whilst aware of the problem, had no evidence through a policy or training records that he had attempted to mitigate against this type of poor behaviour in the workplace. The Director at Company X was found liable and you know the rest of the story. All could be avoided if Company X had a clear and directive policy on Anti-Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying. The policy, if in place, would outline what are unlawful behaviours in New South Wales, what to do if you had a complaint and how to get problems resolved at work.

Employees are our best business asset. Without them or even with hopeless ones, our business suffers and fall over. I’ve met many business owners that are so engaging about their services and products but when we talk about their employees, they put their hands on their head and sigh. I think, if only they were as passionate about investing in their employees as they are in their business services and products, they wouldn’t have the headache that they appear to be carrying.

Employees need and want direction. They want a clear game plan; they want to know the rules and how far they can push them. They want to be engaged, motivated and now they even want to be happy at work. They can’t if we don’t have a robust Employment Handbook that outlines all the details. Here is what else they want to know and the correlating policies:

• Are you going to drug and alcohol test me at work? (Drug and Alcohol Policy)
• Can I post images from work on my social media page? (Social Media and Website Policy)
• Can I throw a chair at my boss and tell him to stuff his job? (Code of Conduct Policy, Leaving Company X Policy)
• Can I get a cash payment for some Annual Leave, I got heaps of time owing? (Annual Leave Policy, Cashing out of Annual Leave Policy)
• Where do I go in an emergency? (Emergency Evacuation Policy)
• What does the Company X do with all it’s waste products, I only want to work for ethical businesses? (Environmental Policy)
• I’ve cut myself at work, what do I do? (Injury Management and Return to Work Policy)

These are just a few small examples of common questions that employees have of businesses. If you are proud of the company that you have created then be proud of your employees and their achievements and give them clear direction and understanding of your expectations. Less problems, less concerns, less complaints, less litigation….

Dust it off! Renew and refresh your Employment Handbook or simply just start one.  

Information prepared by Alicia Hendy, Hendy HR

Call Hendy HR on 0411 254 865 or email for an appointment at ahendy@hendyhr.com.au