The Essential HR Policies that All Australian Small Businesses Should Have

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4 Jul, 2022

From your very first employee, Australian small businesses need to comply with a raft of legislation covering the employment arrangement.

No one has time to wade through complex legislation every time they need to make a decision in the workplace, so writing down clear operating procedures or employee policies helps to:

  • Guide decisions and actions.
  • Get consistency of approach.
  • Clarify expectations.
  • Save time.

An Employee Manual turns complex legislation into easy-to-understand processes and answers the question, “How do we do things around here.”

While a thorough Employee Manual covers many issues, you may want to start with just the minimum essential policies.

What are the must-have employee policies that every small business in Australia needs?

  1. Code of Conduct
  2. Workplace Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination Policy
  3. Workplace Health and Safety Policy
  4. Leave Policy
  5. Alcohol and Drugs Policy
  6. Performance Management
  7. Discipline and Termination of Employment Policy
  8. Information Technology Policy
  9. Internet and Social Media Policy
  10. Workplace Flexibility Policy
  11. Grievance Policy
  12. Privacy Policy

1. Code of Conduct

Your Code of Conduct is a business’s single most critical employment policy. This Policy outlines the expected and acceptable behaviours in a workplace and outlines consequences if these expectations are not met.

If you need to discipline or dismiss an employee, the most common reason will be because they breached your Code of Conduct. Without a clear Code of Conduct, you are increasing your risk of unfair dismissal claims.

2. Workplace Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination Policy

As an employer, you are personally liable for any acts of harassment, discrimination, bullying or racial vilification in your workplace.

You are also obliged to regularly train your employees on what constitutes harassment, bullying, discrimination, and racial vilification, and how to report and manage any behaviours that may occur.

To help manage your risk, you must demonstrate that you have taken all reasonable steps to prevent harassment, bullying, vilification, or discrimination. Comprehensive policies and procedures are the first step in managing this risk.

Given the complexity of the issues, many businesses prefer to separate this into several policies: Workplace Bullying, Sexual Harassment, Racial Vilification, and Anti-Discrimination.

3. Workplace Health and Safety Policy

As an employer, you are legally required to provide a safe workplace and system of work for your employees and visitors to your workplace.

Every business needs a clear Workplace Health and Safety Policy to outline procedures and responsibilities for keeping the workplace safe.

While this Policy should give a high-level overview, many businesses choose to expand this Policy with additional policies covering specific risks or issues in a workplace: Manual Handling, First Aid, Mental Health, Fire, Workplace Rehabilitation, Domestic and Family Violence, Workplace Violence, Environmental and Waste Management, Working Safely from Home, Building Security, Workplace Surveillance, Pandemics, Severe Weather and Natural Disasters, Smoking, Testing and Tagging etc.  

4. Leave Policy

Every employee is entitled to a range of leave under Fair Work legislation, the National Employment Standards and their award or industrial agreement.

A Leave Policy helps employees understand their entitlements and outline when and how the different forms of leave may be taken.

5. Alcohol and Drugs Policy

Employees under the influence of drugs or alcohol are a significant safety and reputational risk to your business.

To manage workplace health and safety risks, employees who come to work under the influence of alcohol and legal or illicit drugs must be managed.

An Alcohol and Drugs Policy outlines acceptable behaviour and the consequences if an employee breaches your policies.

6. Performance Management

Very few employees come to work with a deliberate intent to do a bad job. But at times, you will have employees whose performance is not at an acceptable standard.

A clear policy outlining how you will agree on what standards of performance are acceptable and what will be your process if these standards are not met will help you ensure that you comply with procedural fairness requirements.

7. Discipline and Termination of Employment Policy

No employee lives forever; at some stage, every employee will leave your business. They may resign for another job, retire, or be sacked.

If you unfairly discipline or dismiss an employee, they can seek remedies from Fair Work Australia.

Having clear guidelines on your process for discipline and termination helps reduce your risk of unfair dismissal claims.

8. Information Technology Policy

Every business uses some form of Information Technology (IT). If IT hardware, including computers, phones and photocopiers, or software, programs and apps are misused, this creates significant corporate risk. The business may be shut down through ransomware, malware or leaking of client or business information.

An IT Policy outlines acceptable and unacceptable use of your IT systems and equipment and helps reduce your risk.

9. Internet and Social Media Policy

Employees are entitled to a life outside work, but what if their comments or actions on the internet or social media harm your business? They may share confidential client or business information, they may harass or bully, or they may express extreme views that are not in alignment with your business values.

An internet and social media policy helps employees navigate the boundaries of what they can and can’t disclose and how they can manage the personal/professional/business divide.   

10. Workplace Flexibility Policy

Many employees are legally entitled to explore workplace flexibility options to assist them in managing caring or other responsibilities.

A Workplace Flexibility Policy gives guidance on the available options, how to apply and how to manage workplace flexibility.

11. Grievance Policy

People do not always get along, and there will be times when an employee disagrees with another employee or a decision that has been made. A grievance policy helps outline the steps that can be taken to attempt to positively resolve the issue.

12. Privacy Policy

Employee and client information is covered by Privacy legislation. A Privacy Policy helps to outline what information needs to be kept confidential, how you help keep information private and what you will do if private information is leaked.

Other Policies

While these twelve are the essential policies that every small business in Australia needs, depending on your business, you may also need to have a Recruitment and Selection, Driving and Motor Vehicles Policy, Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy, Unforms, Learning and Development, Intellectual Property, Outside Employment, Criminal History, Transgender, Whistleblowing, and other policies.

The bottom line is that employee policies should help your business and clarify expectations and processes for your employees.

How we can help

Since 2007, we have been providing clear and comprehensive employee policy templates specifically for micro and small businesses in Australia.

Our policies are easy to read and understand, simple to edit (they come in Word format) and are regularly reviewed to ensure compliance with current legislative guidelines.

We take the hassle out of managing your employees.

Instant HR Policies & Procedures Manual

Need help with your HR?

The Instant HR Policies and Procedures Manual saves weeks of work in creating compliant human resources policies for your team.

Ingrid: Lead Author, Australian Employee Manual

HR Author and Lecturer with over 25 years' experience in human resources and workplace relations in Australia. Lead Author of Instant HR Policies & Procedures, NDIS Direct Employment HR Manual, and Employee Performance Reviews: Tips, Templates and Tactics.

About Us

We are an Australian human resources business specialising in small businesses and not for profits, based in Brisbane, Australia.

 

If you are an Employee and need HR Advice, call Fair Work Australia 13 13 94

 

 

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