Decide on employment policies for your business

The purpose of drawing up employment policies is to make sure that employees are aware of and understand the rules that apply to them.

Employment policies can cover anything from health and safety - such as the operation of machinery - to codes of conduct when using computers at work.

As well as setting out how an employer expects their employees to behave and to go about their work safely, employment policies help firms comply with employment law.

Easy-to-understand employment policies have the additional advantage of clarifying relations between employers and employees, and can help cut down on the possibility of disciplinary and legal procedures.

Some employment policies are legal requirements, others a matter of best practice.

Employment rules that are a minimum legal requirement cover: leave and absence; maternity, paternity and adoption; working hours and overtime; health and safety; pay; equal opportunities; harassment and bullying at work; and disciplinary procedures.

Employment rules that are not a minimum legal requirement but are best practice cover among others: rewards, benefits and expenses; staff appraisals; use of company equipment such as computers; training; confidential information; whistleblowing; dress; and drugs and alcohol.

Deciding which best practice policies to introduce will largely be determined by the nature of the employer's business and the size of the workforce.

Employees can be notified or informed of employment policies in a number of ways. Policies can be detailed in the staff handbook, sent as a letter or emailed to staff, included on the firm's intranet or put up on noticeboards. Where training is needed to comply with a particular policy or policies, the employer should provide this.

Employers must ensure that policies do not discriminate against some employees or treat some members of staff unfairly.

It is a useful exercise to review best practice policies and rules regularly to check that they are relevant, that they are being observed and that they are not adversely affecting the operation of the business.