Organizations can make their HR policies more authoritative by putting them in writing. To strengthen their effectiveness, these statements, which may be compiled into a policy manual, should include the reasons the policy is needed.
Written policy statements can serve as invaluable aids in orienting and training new personnel, administering disciplinary action, and resolving grievance issues with employees and their unions. When distributed to employees, these policy statements can provide answers to many questions that might otherwise have to be referred to supervisors.
HR policy statements and employee handbooks assume the force of a legal contract between employer and employee. Just as employers refer to policy statements as a basis for their personnel actions, employees now cite organizational failure to adhere to established policies as a violation of their rights. This is not their intended use.
Many firms insert a disclaimer or waiver in employee manuals to the effect that the contents of the manual do not constitute a contract. The disclaimer should be prominently placed, not buried in a footnote. Wording the manual carefully (avoiding “always” and “never,” for example), using a conversational tone rather than legalistic jargon, and having an outside labor counsel check the manual can help in avoiding problems.
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