An employment contract is an agreement between an employer and employee that sets out the terms and conditions of employment.  It is not necessary to specifically agree on a contract for one to exist. The fact that an employee starts work for an employer brings with it certain fundamental implied terms, such as the right to payment for work performed and a duty of mutual trust and confidence.

The contract should set out the main terms of the employment and be signed by both the employer and the employee. Whilst agreements are subject to minimum legislative entitlements and any applicable award or enterprise agreement requirements, there are many items that can still be covered, such as:

  • Dates of commencement and duration of employment;
  • Duties and accountabilities;
  • Probation period;
  • Hours of work;
  • Remuneration;
  • Confidential information;
  • Intellectual property;
  • Employer policies;
  • Dispute resolution;
  • Performance appraisal and under-performance;
  • Grounds for suspension and termination;
  • Termination notice;
  • Post-employment limitations;
  • Redundancy;
  • Relationship of the parties; and
  • Governing law.

While most of the above list can be quite standard between employers and roles, employer policies are very specific to an individual organisation.

What is a workplace policy?

A policy is a statement which outlines how human resource management issues will be handled in an organisation. It communicates a workplace’s values and expectations of employee conduct and performance.

Workplace policies are intended to define and strengthen the standard operating procedure in an organisation. Policies assist employers manage staff more effectively by clearly outlining what is and isn’t acceptable workplace behaviour and the consequences of non-compliance.

A policy may allow for some flexibility in its implementation where there is a diversity of interests and preferences that could result in vague and conflicting objectives among those involved.  Not all workplace issues, however, require a policy.  Many matters can be handled via simple workplace procedures and processes and ensuring employees understand the expectations of their behaviour and performance.

What are the benefits of having workplace policies? 

Well-prepared workplace policies:

  • are consistent with the values of the organisation
  • comply with employment and other relevant legislation
  • demonstrate that the organisation is operating in an efficient and businesslike manner
  • ensure uniformity and consistency in decision-making and operational procedures
  • add strength to the position of staff when possible legal actions arise
  • save time when a new problem can be handled quickly and effectively through an existing policy
  • foster stability and continuity
  • maintain the direction of the organisation even during periods of change
  • provide the framework for business planning
  • assist in assessing performance and establishing accountability
  • clarify functions and responsibilities.

A workplace policy should:

  • set out the aim of the policy
  • explain why the policy was developed
  • list who the policy applies to
  • set out what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour
  • set out the consequences of not complying with the policy
  • provide a date when the policy was developed or updated.

Policies need to be reviewed on a regular basis and updated where necessary.  Employment law changes, changes to your award or agreement may also require a review of your policies and procedures. Stay up to date with relevant changes by regularly checking with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

What types of workplace policies are there? 

Below are examples of workplace policies that are common to many workplaces:

  • code of conduct
  • recruitment policy
  • internet and email policy
  • mobile phone policy
  • non-smoking policy
  • drug and alcohol policy
  • health and safety policy
  • anti-discrimination and harassment policy
  • grievance handling policy
  • discipline and termination policy
  • use of social media.

The team of business consultants at Business 360 can help employers to prepare, review and update their organisation’s policies documents and achieve peace of mind on employment practices.  Contact David Reid today to discuss how their team may be able to assist your workplace.