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How to Implement HR Policies

All businesses with employees need HR policies and procedures to guide how they operate. These guidelines help employees understand expectations and employers manage with transparency. This article explains common HR policies and the steps for implementation.

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What are HR policies?

The policies of HR govern the work, behaviors, interactions and management of employees. They can encompass a wide range of employment practices including hiring, benefits and employee conduct, among others. HR policies support and supplement local and national laws and regulations regarding the hiring and management of employees.

Generally, they govern four areas:

  • Recruitment and hiring
  • Workplace policies and procedures
  • Discipline
  • Separation

Why are human resource policies important?

HR policies are critical to keep businesses stable and productive. If you have a small company with only a few employees, you might not think having documented HR policies and procedures is necessary. However, businesses of all sizes need the clarity and protection of written HR policies. Reasons to implement policies include:

  • Efficient operation: Clearly articulated policies help ensure that the business runs efficiently.
  • Expectations: The policies help employees understand what’s expected and encourage a sense of transparency.
  • Compliance: They help ensure the hiring, management and compensation of employees are compliant with laws and regulations.
  • Company culture: Establishing policies helps develop your company culture by showing employees what’s important.
  • Consistent treatment: When you define HR policies, you create a consistent, fair way to treat all employees. This reduces frustration for workers and can help you avoid complaints of unfair treatment.
  • Decision-making: As your company grows, the policies can help guide decision-making for consistency across departments.
  • Employee needs: HR policies also allow you to take care of your employees’ needs. The policies provide them with protections for various situations, which shows them that you care.
  • Discipline management: If you need to take disciplinary action, your HR policies make it easier to know how to proceed.

HR policies list and examples

Your company’s HR policies can vary according to your business and industry. Start with the basics and the policies that address compliance with local, state and federal laws. Then, expand to more specific policies for your industry or company. Some examples of HR policies include:

  • Anti-harassment and nondiscriminatory laws
  • Employment classifications and benefits
  • Meal and break periods
  • Paid time off
  • Ethics and workplace practices
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Separation

Anti-harassment and non-discriminatory laws

Equal Employment Opportunity laws state that employers shouldn’t discriminate based on race, age, color, sex, religion or national origin. Sexual orientation, while not specifically listed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII that governs equal employment, falls under the auspices of sex discrimination. Title VII protects employees and job applicants from discrimination across recruitment, hiring, compensation, promotion, training and benefits.

These laws and policies are intended to protect employees and management from harassment, as well as provide freedom from retaliation when someone asserts their rights under Title VII or participates in an EEO proceeding, such as testifying. It’s important for human resource policies to keep up with the current interpretation of Equal Employment Opportunity laws to implement them in their business.

Employment classifications and benefits

This policy outlines classifications of employment and eligibility for benefits. Classification of employment refers to the type of employment—for example, full-time, salaried, part-time, seasonal or contingent. Consult local and national laws to ensure your company is compliant and outline the eligibility criteria for benefits clearly.

Meal and break periods

In the United States, laws regarding break periods are implemented at the state level. If your state hasn’t defined laws governing break periods, rules regarding breaks are considered the domain of the employer. A policy should clearly state the guidelines for breaks in terms of frequency and duration. Break periods can include rest periods, lactation and meals.

Paid time off

Eligibility and procedures for requesting time off should be plainly outlined. Paid time off includes vacations, sick leave and personal days. Policies for other types of leave can also be included in this section, such as family or bereavement leave. Employers also need to determine if policies will allow the rollover of paid time off to the subsequent calendar year. State laws may dictate the types of leave you offer and whether you have to roll over the time.

Ethics and workplace practices

A wide range of policies and practices can fall under this category, including financial reporting for timekeeping and business expenses, dress code, employee conduct, data security, rules for handling company assets and workplace health and safety. Ensure you’ve addressed local and federal laws as well as any regulations for your industry.

Disciplinary actions

It’s essential that causes and procedures for disciplinary action be established and stated in your HR policies. Disciplinary actions can include probation, termination and legal action. Creating disciplinary policies can help ensure these situations are handled consistently for fair treatment of your employees.


Separation policies address voluntary and involuntary separation of employees from companies. For voluntary separations such as resignation, a policy might require a formal resignation letter and exit interview. For involuntary separations, which can include layoffs and terminations, a process should be implemented to ensure employees are properly notified and informed of the cancellation of employment and benefits. There should also be a procedure for ensuring all separating employees have returned company-loaned assets and cleared outstanding accounts for business travel expenses or any other financial responsibilities.

How to implement human resource policies

Here are some guidelines for setting up HR policies:

  1. Establish an HR department or governing party
  2. Determine the needs of your employees
  3. Check all local, state, federal and industry-related laws and regulations
  4. Communicate policies to your employees

1. Establish an HR department or governing party

For smaller companies, an HR department may not be required or practical, in which case, a governing party should be named. It’s important that employees and management are clear on policies and the individuals responsible for managing them. You can also outsource HR functions to a third party if you’re not quite ready to create an in-house human resources team.

2. Determine the needs of your employees

Are your employees salaried, part-time, seasonal or contingent? Many businesses employ a mix of worker types. Consider the roles and responsibilities of the various types of employees. While it’s a good idea for all employees to understand safety and health regulations, a warehouse worker, for example, may require more safety training than employees who work in a call center.

3. Check all local, state, federal and industry-related laws and regulations

Ensure you understand and have addressed applicable laws and regulations in your HR policies. If not, you may face noncompliance penalties, which vary depending on which laws you break. Keep current with the relevant laws and regulations as they can change at any time.

4. Communicate policies to your employees

Announce all HR policies to your employees and provide a handbook or create a policy website. If you’re establishing an entirely new set of policies, an information session can be helpful. Any changes or updates to policies should be announced as you implement them. Many companies require employees to sign documents stating that they’ve read and understood HR policies.

HR policies and procedures FAQs

How often should you review your HR policies?

It’s a good idea to review your HR policies at least once per year and make changes as needed. If you have a major change or see massive growth in your company, it’s a good idea to review your policies to make sure they’re still relevant for the new structure of your business. You might also do a review if an employee questions an existing policy or suggests a new policy for the company.

What should I include in an HR policy?

When writing your HR policies, include specifics to make them clear and leave no room for misinterpretation. Creating a template for your policies can make it easy to fill in the details and have a consistent structure. Typical components of an HR policy include:

  • Policy name
  • Policy number or other identifying information
  • Purpose or objective
  • Details of the policy
  • Procedures or steps to implement the policy
  • Consequences for not following the policy
  • Exceptions
  • Effective date

How do you enforce HR policies?

Having clear steps on implementing each policy can make them easier to enforce. Train your managers to ensure they understand the company’s HR policies and their role in enforcing them. Meet with your managers regularly to ensure they’re upholding the policies, and observe employees and managers to see how they’re enforced. Consistent, fair enforcement is essential, so set a good example by following the policies with employees you directly supervise. Retrain staff as necessary to reinforce the importance of following the established HR policies.

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