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Do your employees understand what’s expected of them in any given situation? More importantly, do YOU know what you expect of your employees in a given situation?

Take the following scenario: A journalist from your local newspaper phones your office wanting an interview regarding a charity benefit that your business is supporting. You are not available, so the employee who answered the phone gives the interview. Is this okay with you? Are your employees authorized to give interviews to the media? All of your employees or just certain ones? Can they give interviews without clearing it with you first? In what situations? Do they know what to say and what not to say in an interview? Do you require a written or verbal report following an interview? If you have an Employee Policy Manual, that’s just one of the many topics that you will have addressed.

Regardless of the size of your business, the Employee Policy Manual is an essential management tool that communicates your rules and expectations to employees. Management consultants tell us that the Employee Policy Manual is created to ensure consistency and to establish methods that the employer will use to address an array of issues.

A good Employee Policy Manual will not only cover issues like media contact, but will address the more important issues of employment, health and safety in the workplace and employee theft. Although the contents of the Employee Policy Manual will differ from business to business, all should contain the following main sections:

1. Employee Code. Outline basic elements such as working hours, vacation time, salary and benefits, overtime, orientation procedures, and performance evaluations. Also, include coverage of customer handling and other issues that arise during the normal course of the workday. Include job descriptions in this section as well.

2. Employee Misconduct. Include description of how employee misconduct will be addressed, including issues such as tardiness, persistent lateness, or employee theft.

3. Sexual Misconduct. Even small and startup businesses are advised to include a policy item outlining behaviors that are not acceptable within the workplace. Primarily designed to protect women in the workplace, these policies also advance strong guidelines to mitigate the occurrence of sexual misconduct in the work environment.

4. Heath & Safety Guidelines. When employees share in the responsibility for health and safety issues, the entire business benefits. Guidelines must comply with applicable local, provincial and federal legislation.

5. Internet Policy. Include mention of appropriate Internet and email usage. Be sure to specify that employees may not use company email or other Internet components to conduct illegal activities, or to access or distribute pornography or copyrighted materials, such as the popular MP3 music files. Should you ever find yourself in court defending your business because an employee has used your email system to send threatening or harassing emails, an Internet Policy will be to your benefit.

By having an Employee Policy Manual in place, employers are taking a proactive stand, rather than reacting to a negative situation when it occurs. The Employee Policy Manual should be required reading for all new employees, as well as for existing employees when any substantive change has been made.

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