It makes good business sense to have workplace policies on issues such as:
- intellectual property
- social media usage
- use of company facilities
- dress and appearance
- the right to search
These help you protect both your tangible and intangible business assets, which, once lost, may be difficult to regain.
Policies on intellectual property protection and confidentiality
If you design products or create other original output - such as music or printed matter - it is important to protect your intellectual property.
Therefore you need a workplace policy which states that:
- any original product or material developed in the course of an employee's work remains the property of the business
- employees have a duty to keep company information confidential
If you intend to rely on any kind of penalty clauses, you should always seek legal advice.
Read more on protecting intellectual property.
Social media workplace policy
The use of social media at work presents responsibilities regarding employees using the various sites. Having a written social media policy for your business provides clear guidelines for employees.
Read more on managing employee use of social media. Read the Labour Relations Agency's advice on social media and the employment relationship.
Policies on dress and appearance
You are entitled to set out a code covering how you expect employees to dress and generally present themselves. This is particularly important where there are health and safety issues involved, eg in factories, building sites or kitchens.
However, you must ensure that these codes are non-discriminatory, particularly in relation to gender and religion/belief. Read the Fair Employment Code of Practice from the Equality Commission.
Policy on the use of company facilities
It's a good idea to set up clear policies about the use of company facilities. In particular, you should have a policy on use of the internet, email and the telephone.
Most email and internet policies aim to strike a balance between business and personal use. Setting out boundaries will help to minimise the risk of:
- having to take disciplinary action against staff
- a third party taking legal action against you
- harm to your IT system
- leakage of confidential information
In addition, if you intend to monitor staff usage of company facilities then you should carry out an impact assessment in advance of this.
To access templates that you can download, tailor and use, see other key HR policies and templates.
Read more on monitoring and security of staff.
It is a good idea to have a policy on making protected disclosures - or 'whistleblowing'. This is because it will encourage workers to raise concerns about illegal activities and bad business practice internally - and prevent your business receiving negative publicity.
Note that you do not need to treat the making of a protected disclosure as a grievance unless:
- the disclosure relates to a matter that the employee could raise as a grievance with you
- the employee intends for the disclosure to constitute the raising of a grievance
Read more on whistleblowing - qualifying disclosures.
You may only search an employee if this is allowed under their terms and conditions of employment.
Therefore, if you have a right-to-search policy, you should state that it is contractual. It is also important to remember that you should get an employee's consent before conducting a search.