Workplace Policies 101
You want a safe and respectful workplace that allows your employees to shine. So start by creating workplace policies for important factors like health, privacy, safety, and anti-discrimination.
When a conflict arises, it can be a life-saver to already have policies that you can rely on. But even more than handling a problem or a crisis, proactively creating solid workplace policies can help you to foster a better, more inclusive, and transparent culture.
This document is a template for you to create your own workplace policies as part of your employee handbook. You can read below or download it as a PDF here.
Note we have specified in [brackets] the areas that you should change yourself, such as inserting your company name or adding more detail.
Legal Note: this template is not a legal document and does not consider local, state-specific, national, or international laws. Each state and locality may have very different laws and policies. So please consult an employment lawyer in your state to approve your final workplace policies and employee handbook. Also, often in the context of policies it's important to sign an employee acknowledgement document. Please also consult your lawyer regarding this to ensure it is binding.
What's included in this article:
Safety and health
- Safety standards
- Anti-discrimination and harassment
- Workplace violence
- Emergency situations
- Drug-free workplace
Data and privacy
- Company confidentiality
- Data controls
- Personal privacy
Safety & Health
Our company is committed to providing a safe place to work. We make investments in ensuring safety standards, a workplace free of discrimination, and having clear policies for handling any conflicts or emergencies that could arise.
We have high safety standards in our workplace that we take to minimize the risk of injury or illness. We set minimum standards that are regularly assessed. And we proactively seek to provide training, equipment, and guidelines to ensure the maximum standard of safety for our employees.
Key safety standards include:
- Employee training workshops on workplace safety and relevant procedures
- Regular building and site inspections
- Quality control / compliance of equipment
- Optional for physical environments, e.g. construction or interior design Providing company equipment, including protective attire such as uniforms, gloves, and goggles]
Please always follow the provided safety guidelines and use the equipment supplied. A lack of compliance may result in disciplinary action or termination.
Non-discrimination and anti-harassment
Our anti-discrimination and harassment policy is just as important as that of physical safety standards. Psychological safety is regarded as perhaps the most important element of a team working productively and happily.
Harassment is very serious and dealt with proportionally. And it can include significant offences such as:
- Mistreating someone based on a person's background, including gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or heritage.
- Making unwanted sexual advances or comments of any kind
- Gossip or rumour spreading about another employee
- Abusing management or authority by demeaning another employee or requiring them to do menial tasks outside of their job description
- Undermining someone else's work or refusing to cooperate with another employee
In particular, racism and sexual harassment are illegal. Anyone found indicted for illegal offenses will be suspended without pay and if any employee is found guilty of sexual harassment or racism they will be terminated.
How to get help and take action
If you are being harassed, whether by a superior, a colleague, customer, partner, vendor, or anyone related to the company, please consider the following options:
- Talk to the offender directly: we believe in having adult conversations, and it is possible that the offender may not realize they are harassing you. If you feel confident enough, you could talk to them directly and tell them this is wrong and you are offended, and request an apology. We only recommend this for minor cases, such as an inappropriate comment or joke. For more serious infractions, please escalate and talk to one of the following people.
- Your manager: your manager should be your go-to person in these situations. If it's a more complex harassment situation in particular, such as with customers or colleagues, your manager can help you assess the situation. And ultimately, they can assist you directly. [Or if you're in a bigger company, they could help you by contacting HR and escalating as necessary.]
- [HR: it may always be good to talk to HR, no matter what the situation is. That way, you can begin to build a file. The sooner you bring something up with HR, the quicker you might find resolution. Particularly for your safety, if something serious happens, or if your manager is involved in your claim, it's essential that you speak to them.]
- CEO/Executives: And if you have spoken to your manager [or HR] and feel like your complaint still has not been heard, please escalate directly to an executive or the CEO. We are here for you.
We are also providing the contact details of RAINN which is a national anti-sexual violence hotline if for some reason you are unable to escalate the issue. Please visit https://www.rainn.org/ or call +1-800-656-4673(HOPE), open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Violence can include physical or sexual assault, or even destruction of property. Any threats to someone else's life or livelihood are considered violence. Violence can also include severe verbal or psychological abuse that damages someone else. We treat physical violence with zero tolerance and we treat verbal threats as high risk and those will be dealt with appropriately.
If you or another person are experiencing violence at work, please:
- Immediately contact your manager [or HR] and let them know about the situation. It will be investigated thoroughly.
- Call security if you witness violence, whether that's the security of the building or our company.
- If someone has a weapon or severe physical violence is underway, please call police at 911 [or insert your local emergency line here].
If our company finds that an employee has committed an act of violence, that employee will be terminated and potentially face criminal charges. Employees who intentionally damage company or personal property will be responsible for paying for the damage as well as facing an appropriate penalty, which could include termination.
For situations of violence, please refer to the notes above. But if you find yourself in a dangerous situation such as a fire, or worse, a natural disaster such as a flood, explosion, or tornado, we have set out emergency procedures and equipment.
- We have working smoke detectors and alarms as well as sprinklers. They are regularly inspected.
- We have fire extinguishers and other equipment that are accessible in these locations [Insert locations]
- We have emergency exit doors located [insert locations]
- We have an evacuation plan that is posted [insert locations]
- We have technicians on call that can repair equipment issues.
If you have any questions about our workplace evacuation or emergency management plans, please contact your manager.
We are a drug-free workplace. What that means is that
- Nobody is allowed to bring, use, distribute, or sell any illegal drugs on our premises
- No one is allowed to abuse alcohol or legal/prescription drugs at work
- No one is allowed to be under the influence of substances
The penalty for any of these infractions may include disciplinary action, termination, or even pressing charges.
A list of prohibited drugs and substances includes substances from the federal DEA guidelines:
If recreational marijuana is legal in your state or you have a medical prescription, it is accepted - to the point that it does not influence your senses. Again, if it is suspected to negatively influence your performance or the way you treat others, you could face disciplinary action. And you must follow the same guidelines as smoking listed below.
Alcohol is forbidden from being consumed during work hours, unless it is at an approved company event.
We are a smoke-free workplace. You can smoke in designated areas or open air spaces, but anywhere inside of the building, including restrooms, lobby, elevators, or offices are all restricted.
We also assist on cleanliness, professionalism, and safety.
- When disposing of your cigarettes, please put them out and then discard them, preferably outside in ashtrays.
- Avoid smoking around clients or vendors
- Do not smoke near areas or objects with flammable material
- Do not set off fire alarms or cause fires - doing so will involve disciplinary action.
We understand that many people take prescription drugs. However, if any medication is having unplanned effects, such as disrupting your thinking or movement, please contact your manager so that you can take a sick day. On the other hand, if you are suspected of abusing prescription drugs, such as opioids, you may face disciplinary actions. We also have a note on dealing with addiction below.
If your role involves handling machines or driving, you must be fully alert, capable, and focussed on fulfilling your duties at all times. If prescription drug use creates any sort of safety risk, we reserve the right to terminate you. If your prescription drug use is for a limited time period and it may impair your ability to complete your job, we may suggest that you use your sick leave or vacation time until you are better.
In any case with prescription drugs, we will do our best to accommodate you, as long as they do not harm your ability to do your job.
Getting help with addiction
While we won't tolerate addiction that manifests as violence or other violations, we recognize the modern issues of addiction and we are here to help. [We offer EAPs - Employee Assistance Programs - that can help you to deal with addiction and potentially seek rehabilitation.] Please contact us to get help.
Data & privacy
We protect private information, including customers, employees, partners, and our company. We recognize that data can be very personal - and important for competitive reasons - and so we treat it with the highest level of respect and care.
Confidential data could include:
- Personal records of employees and performance reviews
- Internal financial information
- Company goals, forecasts, predictions, initiatives, and project plans
- PII - personally identifiable information of customers including customer lists or customer contact details
- Data from partners and vendors
In general, practise discretion with data and do not publish it online, share it with media, competitors, or the public. Effectively, don't distribute it outside the company.
When handling confidential information, do not:
- Use it for your personal benefit
- Share it with anyone outside the company
- Download or transfer confidential files to your own devices
Depending on your role, we may ask you to sign a non-compete or non-disclosure agreement (NDA), to ensure the protection of our sensitive data and any knowledge that could be compromising or useful to competitors.
Any employee found in violation of the confidentiality policy will face appropriate disciplinary action, up to or including termination, and could face charges for being in violation of an NDA.
As part of our thorough controls on data, we invest in measures to:
- Employ data protection such as encryption and security locks
- Regularly backup data to secure locations
- Use secure networks to to transfer our data and protect ourselves from cyberattacks
Breaches of data controls may result in disciplinary action. Consistent breaches of policy can result in termination.
We believe in ensuring our company's privacy, as well as your personal privacy. To that, we provide:
- Secure digital file storage
- Secure storage for important physical documents
- Guidelines for when and when not to disclose information to other employees
- [Secured devices and up-to-date systems and technologies]
- [Workshops to train employees in data privacy and how to use online tools for maximum security]
- [Document shredders to ensure destruction of confidential documents]
Ensuring privacy instills trust in our workplace and also that our company's legal status and reputation is upheld.
Read next: Code of Conduct