Written Employee Policies Offer Valuable Benefits

You may well have started in the kitchen and bath industry by yourself, doing everything from designing and selling to performing the construction of your projects. As soon as you hired that first employee to help you get things done, you became an employer with any number of obligations and restrictions on how you handle that relationship.

It’s unlikely that you spent a lot of time considering what your employee policy would be, but rather simply dealt with situations as they arose and got back to the next thing on your list. Chances are that there was no formal structure for giving your employee a review, but they got one when they finally asked for a raise. The issue of employee policy likely came up when you added a second employee and now had to be consistent with how you handled them.

In order to maintain a consistent, and legal, approach to handling employee issues, you must have a formal written employee policy. A written policy also has the benefit of avoiding the need to negotiate each situation that arises, such as vacations, days off, funeral leave, etc.

It’s not necessary to start from scratch to write an employee policy; there are a number of resources available to assist you. The key is to get started and recognize that this is a document that will be constantly refined and updated as new situations arise. By adding these “tweaks” to the policy, you can ensure that, when the same or similar situation arises in the future, you will be able to address it in a consistent manner.

Most employee policies are a blending of the laws and common sense. A good place to start with the legal aspects of your policy is your state department of labor and industries (the agency that handles workman’s compensation in your state). It is usually this agency that deals with work hours, minimum wages, safety rules and compensation for work-related injuries.

Another place to look is your trade associations. Often these groups will have a “template” policy that you can use as a starting point for your own instead of “reinventing the wheel.”

Armed with this basic information, you are now ready to begin assembling your own company employee policy. Let’s look at the basic areas that it should cover.

Policy Structure

Starting with an outline and some generic definitions and wording, our company developed the following basic structure for our employee policy many years ago. Needless to say, much of it has changed over time and has been expanded as necessity required. We first set up broad categories to fit various elements of the policy into:

1.00 Definition of

employment;

2.00 Conditions of

employment;

3.00 Payment and

promotion procedures;

4.00 Time off from work;

5.00 Personal conduct;

6.00 Employee benefits.

Note that a numbering system was used to allow for insertion of more detailed explanations of policy issues, i.e. funeral leave might be covered in section 4.60, etc.

Now, let’s look at some issues that might be covered in these categories.

 

1.00 Definition of Employment

You may wish to have a probationary and permanent classification for employees and, in addition, a temporary classification. Since other policy issues, such as benefits, vacations, etc., may differ for each group, these employee classifications must be defined carefully at the start.

It’s advisable to define all employees as “at will” employees, reserving the right to terminate any employee with or without cause. If your policy does not specifically state this, you could be leaving yourself open to wrongful termination charges.

 

2.00 Conditions of Employment

Some of the things to be covered here are attendance, scheduled working hours and what to do if someone is going to miss work. It should also cover scheduled work hours, as well as the policy toward flextime, and/or “comp” time.

 

3.00 Payment and Promotion Procedures

In this section, detail the timing of pay periods, procedures for time cards and when pay days will occur in relation to the end of pay periods. You should also cover your position with regard to pay advances.

The company’s procedures for reviewing employee performance and adjusting salaries and wages should be explained in some detail here. It’s important to indicate the timing of reviews so that employees know what to expect. Though it may seem obvious, it should be pointed out that “each employee will be paid according to their contribution to the company relative to all other employees.”

In this section, you should also cover what happens when an employee leaves the company or when a previously employed person returns to the company.

4.00 Time Off From Work

The company should address each of the following:

• Holidays

• Vacations

• Sick Leave

• Weather

• Any other type of leave (Maternity, Military, etc.)

5.00 Personal Conduct

This area is probably one of the most important and sensitive areas that you will cover in your employee policy. It is here that you define your expectations regarding how you expect employees to act and react to circumstances that can affect how your company is perceived by its customers. This might cover:

• Personal business

• Alcohol and illegal drugs

• Smoking and tobacco

• Job site conduct

• Grounds for dismissal

• Sexual harassment

• Gratuities from suppliers

• Contributions and

solicitations

• Employee use of company assets

• Employee purchases

6.00 Employee Benefits

There may be many areas of benefits that should be described here briefly, with detailed descriptions contained in more complete plan documents for such things as the company’s group health program and any savings and retirement plans.

You might also want to include in the basic policy such miscellaneous benefits as educational allowances. At the end of the policy document, make sure there is a provision for the employee to acknowledge that he or she has received, read and understood the policies set forth in the document.

The above description is not an exhaustive recipe for developing an employee policy but rather a place to begin. It is important that you do this carefully and consult with the appropriate professionals to ensure the policy conforms to various legal requirements that impact employer/employee relations. Having a formal, written employee policy, however, is the best way to avoid conflicts and misunderstandings as your business grows.

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