Never before have employees had so many opportunities to attack employers. Workplace Policies reinforce and clarify the standards expected of employees. They help employers manage and guide staff more effectively. Workplace Policies define what is acceptable and unacceptable in business.
Legally prepared Workplace Policies help businesses in many ways. Policies demonstrate that the organisation is operated in an efficient and businesslike manner, raise stability and ensure consistency in the decision-making and operational procedures.
Workplace Policies assist employers to defend themselves in an unfair dismissal claim, Occupation Health and Safety (OHS) prosecution and liability claims.
Policies should form part of each employee’s employment contract.
Check your current Employment Contracts.
You cannot automatically direct an employee to obey policies. Instead, incorporate them into the Employment Contract. For example, in BHP Iron Ore Pty Ltd v Australian Workers’ Union (2000) 102 FCR 97, the Court held that a memo is not enough to bind the employee to the policies. It is only possible to bind an employee to policies by express reference in the Employment Contract.
If you are unsure, you can build Employment Contracts that adopt Workplace Policies here: Contract of Employment Page
The Workplace Policies are in MS Word. They are finished documents so you can choose to leave them unchanged. Or, at any time, you can change them.
Some policies may not be relevant to your business, at the moment. Ignore these. Do not provide copies of them to your employees. In other words, you do not need to use every Policy. Just use the policies that are beneficial to your business.
The Absenteeism policy provides information for employees for absenteeism, for whatever reason.
The policy sets out how you manage situations where an employee is absent from the workplace.
This policy is suitable for use in any Australian business with persons who are:
This policy may be used in conjunction with other policies, such as “Termination of employment policy” and “Annual leave policy”.
Some employees take an excessive amount of leave each year. Absenteeism occurs when an employee continuously takes more than their allowed paid personal leave.
Absenteeism is not only bad for productivity but can also affect office morale, company finances and lower the quality of goods and services provided.
In a recent Forbes study (‘According to Absenteeism: The Bottom-Line Killer’) unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried employees.
An absenteeism policy will stipulate the procedure an employee must follow when requesting and using their personal leave days. Such procedures can include notifying your manager or acquiring a medical certificate.
In the case of Sibert v Tiwi Islands Shire Council  FCCA 745, for example, the Court found that Mr Sibert, in breaching his absenteeism policy, was able to be dismissed.
Mr Sibert, who worked as a farm manager, was dismissed due to continual unauthorised absences from work. He challenged this decision, but the Court upheld the original termination.
Mr Sibert applied for both paid and unpaid leave throughout his employment and would leave work, even if the leave was not approved. He even booked flights for an overseas trip before getting a doctor’s medical certificate to claim sick-leave.
In a 12-month period, Mr Sibert was absent for over 3 months.
The Court ruled it was fair for his employer to dismiss Mr Sibert, as he had breached his absenteeism policy titled “employment leave”.
At Legal Consolidated, an absenteeism policy will stop employers slacking-off for 3 months of the year. Without a policy, employers may be vulnerable to such situations, and employees may abuse the system to their own advantage. Workplace Policies create security for employers in cases such as the one outlined.
An absenteeism policy will also set up the procedures an employer can undertake when dealing with a frequently absent worker.
In the case of Alexis King v D.C Lee & L.J Lyons  FWC 1664, for example, Ms Alexis King was awarded $11,064.28 in damages for being unfairly dismissed. This was the case, even though she had repeated unexplained absences from work.
The Commission found that, although Lee and Lyons had a valid reason for dismissing King, she was not notified properly, and did not have an opportunity to respond. The employer did not correctly dismiss Miss King, and as a result she was awarded damages.
If Lee and Lyons had followed their Workplace Policy correctly, this issue would not have arisen. At Legal Consolidated, the obligations and steps for employers are clearly illustrated, leaving them less vulnerable to situations such as this one.
Information technology (IT) includes the use of computers to store, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data and information. The Acceptable IT use policy is especially useful if you operate online IT facilities, including the Internet and email.
The purpose of this policy is to give a clear statement to all users of the IT facilities (including employees, temporary staff, and contractors) of their responsibilities. This includes what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable use, and to manage the provision and modification of access to online services.
This policy is often used with the “Confidentiality policy”, “Employee standard of conduct guidelines”, “Harassment and bullying policy”, and “Termination of employment policy”.
In the case of Griffiths v Rose  FCA 30, for example, the employee, Mr Griffiths, was an employee in the IT department. He was given a company computer and had the ability to take his computer home. After work and on weekends, Mr Griffiths watched copious amounts of pornography on the company computer, which was recorded by the employer.
The employer dismissed Mr Griffiths, which he disputed in Court.
The Court found that the employer had every right to dismiss Mr Griffiths, as he had read and signed the company policy, and was aware that his use of laptop could be monitored.
Without a policy in place, Mr Griffiths could have argued against his dismissal. However, he went against the acceptable IT use, and as he signed a policy, the employer was covered.
In Batterham and Others v Dairy Farmers Ltd, seven employees challenged their dismissal from the Dairy Farmers. The employees had received and sent inappropriate material, including pornography, through the company’s email system.
However, the Fair Work Commission dismissed their claim and explained that due to the policies that the employees had signed, the company had every right to dismiss the employees.
Without policies in place, the company would have been vulnerable in such court cases. Policies are implemented to explain to the employee what is, and is not, appropriate in the workplace. Building an acceptable use IT policy with Legal Consolidated will help every employer outline acceptable guidelines that the employee must follow, and also covers the employer if any issues arise in the future.
The policy may be used to regulate the management, operation and use of annual leave.
This policy applies to all employees who are permanent and eligible to accrue annual leave.
This precedent policy provides information for employees on their rights and obligations for discrimination in the workplace, and what is considered unlawful behaviour. The policy sets out how complaints are made to the employer.
It is suitable for use in any business with persons who are:
This policy provides information for employees for their obligations of confidentiality for sensitive information and intellectual property.
It is suitable for use in any business with persons who are:
This policy works in conjunction with the “Termination of employment policy”.
This differs from a Non-Disclosure Agreement.
This policy is used if you engage employees or contractors. The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance on the management of conflicts of interest in relation to employees and contracted staff of the company, or its subsidiaries.
This policy provides an outline of your policy on the use and or abuse of drugs and alcohol in the workplace.
This policy applies to employees and contractors.
Employee standard of conduct guidelines
The guidelines set out your standard conduct for employees. It guides employees on how to act, and clarifies how you expect employees to perform and behave in the workplace.
A woman who attended a farewell drinks function at the Sydney Opera House was fired for becoming drunk and vomiting. Upon learning of the incident the employer dismissed the employee on the grounds that she had damaged the reputation of the business. Fair Work Commission took a different view, deciding that dismissing the woman was unreasonable.
The company did not have a clear policy or guidelines for the employee, so there was no clear breach. The case hinged on what ‘appropriate behaviour standards’ are at work-place functions. There was no communication of any drug and alcohol policy between employer and employee.
In addition, the Commission was of the view that the company acted dishonestly by manufacturing evidence and creating an alcohol policy after the incident.
This debacle cost the company tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, penalties and reputational damage.
If the company had clear and communicated alcohol and drug policies in place, they would not have been so vulnerable. Instead of two costly, and time-consuming court cases, the employer would have justification for summarily dismissing the employee.
At Legal Consolidated, an employer can create alcohol and drug policies that will leave the employer safe and secure from such cases.
In the case of Agnew v Nationwide News PR927597, four individuals were dismissed from Nationwide News for consuming alcohol during their lunch break. They had signed a ‘drugs and alcohol policy’, however, they were still reinstated.
How can the Commission find that the termination was too harsh, especially as there was a policy in place?
The commission found that the policy was not clear-cut and created ‘mixed signals’ to the employees. The policy was not of a good enough standard to enforce, and the employees were ordered to be reinstated.
If Nationwide News had created a policy with Legal Consolidated, their policy would be ‘air-tight’ and clear. Without a policy from Legal Consolidated, any employer can be vulnerable as a case such as this one.
In a similar situation, the case of Selak v Woolworths Limited  AIRCFB 81, an employer was fired for drinking alcohol during his lunch break. However, this case differs from Nationwide News, as the Court upheld the employer decision to fire the employee.
What is different in the two cases? In the case of Selak v Woolworths, the alcohol and drug policies were strictly adhered to and were clear and precise.
At Legal Consolidated, employers can rest easy knowing that our policies are clear, concise, and air-tight.
ACT was the first jurisdiction in Australia to legalise the consumption of Marijuana.
Legalisation poses a series of tricky questions for employers. Can you fire someone for doing something legal? Does employer liability for employee actions extend to when they are drug-affected? (Short answer, yes.)
Much like alcohol, you likely have no recourse if employees partake in legalised substances outside of the workplace. However, if the substance affects them in the workplace you can take action. This is a particularly complex line to walk given substances, such as cannabis, can linger in the system for over a month after use. Discretion is required to determine if employees are still affected or positive for previous use.
Thankfully, you can certainly ban the taking of legalised and illegal drugs on your premises. Just remember to politely question exactly what your employees are taking on their “smoko breaks”.
We have designed to cover both legal and illegal substances. Update your workplace policy above.
If you are drug testing employees, use non-intrusive methods. Fair Work considers urine tests to be intrusive and discriminatory. Saliva swabs and hair follicle tests appear to pass muster.
What if the employee tests positive? Could it have been a false positive? Is the employee actually affected by the substance or is it lingering in their system? Is the employee undertaking hazardous tasks, such as driving heavy vehicles?
Context and discretion are key to exercising this policy.
A further test or a reprimand may be more appropriate than the termination of the employee. In New South Wales up to four meetings are recommended before terminating an employee.
The policy for all types of employers. It provides a process for the quick and effective resolution of workplace grievances, regardless of the size of the workplace.
The Harassment and bullying policy provides information for employees on their rights and obligations for harassment. This includes sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace. This policy provides guidance as to what is considered unlawful behaviour and how complaints may be made to the employer.
It is suitable for use in a business with persons who are:
An employer investigates workplace bullying. Often they claim that the documents in the investigation are subject to legal professional privilege.
“Legal professional privilege” for bullying applies to:
Legal professional privilege means the advice of the lawyer to the client is protected. This is from disclosure as evidence in any legal proceeding, along with any communication or document passing from the client to the lawyer. This includes requests for advice or a set of factual instructions for the purpose of providing legal advice.
Legal professional privilege belongs only to the client. It only protects confidential communications. If confidentiality is not maintained, the privilege is lost.
Consider Stephen v Seahill Enterprises Pty Ltd and another (2021) FWC 2623 delivered 12 May 2021 per Hatcher VP, Dean DP and Platt C.
In Stephen v Seahill Enterprises the Fair Work Commission dealt with an objection to the production of documents. These related to an investigation of bullying. This is on the basis that the documents were subject to Legal professional privilege.
The Fair Work Commission ruled that the correspondence commissioning the investigation is protected. But not the documents created later. These included the investigation report. According to the Fair Work Commission, protection was lost. This was when the employer represented to the employee that the investigation was required by the Fair Work Commission and the employer’s policy.
The Policy was sadly not prepared by Legal Consolidated. And the Employer lost.
These representations were misleading, but if true, they could not have been intended to be confidential. This is because the Fair Work Commission is informed of the outcomes of the investigation. Similarly, if the investigation were being conducted pursuant to the employer’s policy (which required procedural fairness), the outcome would need to be conveyed to relevant employees in the workplace so that necessary corrective or disciplinary action could be taken.
The Fair Work Commission is critical that the employer made the misleading representation to the employee who made the bullying allegations that he would be dismissed if he didn’t submit to an interview by the investigator.
In the case of Mathews v Winslow Constructors (Vic) Pty Ltd  VSC 728, the Court ordered over 1.3 million dollars in damages for bullying and sexual harassment of Ms Matthews.
In this case, the Court found the employer was negligent in failing to provide a safe working environment, and allowing Ms Matthews to be subjected to ongoing abuse, sexual harassment, and
bullying by her co-workers, and even her boss.
Ms Mathews was subject to daily sexual harassment, which included, but was not limited to: being shown pornographic material and asked questions about it, repeatedly asked about her sex-life,
continuously asked for sexual favours, had colleagues grab-her and talk about hurting her, and was continuously bullied and called ‘spastic’, ‘bimbo’ and ‘useless’. Finally, in July 2010, when a colleague stated to Ms Matthews that he was ‘going to follow [her] home, rip your clothes off and rape you’, Ms Mathews was too frightened to continue working.
Without any policies or procedures in place, there was very little Ms Matthews could do. She brought a claim to the Court and was awarded damages for her psychiatric injuries, jaw injury, for economic loss, and future economic loss. The damages Ms Mathews was awarded totaled $1,360,027.
Without bullying and harassment policies in place, Ms Matthews was treated terribly during her employment with Winslow Constructions. There was very little she could do, and no-one she could turn to for help.
Bullying and harassment policies provide guidelines for employers and employees, combatting situations such as this one. It provides a safe work environment for the employee and can help employers enforce acceptable work-place guidelines. A bullying and harassment policy, built at Legal Consolidated, would have helped step in before the out-of-control situation Ms Mathews found herself in and would have stopped the Court case resulting in the $1.3 million damages awarded.
What happens if there is no policy in place? The Court can order one to be put in place.
In the case of CF and NW v Company A and ED  FWC 5272, the Fair Work Commission found that two employees were bullied at their work by their Property Manager. The Property manager, Ms E.D. engaged in bullying conduct towards the employees including:
The employer had undertaken an informal investigation about this bullying allegation and attempted work-place mediation. However, the Commission found that this was not good enough.
Instead, the Commission ordered the company to implement ‘appropriate bullying policies, procedures and training, which includes confirming appropriate future conduct and behaviour’.
Bullying and harassment policies in the workplace are incredibly important. As evidence, in this case, the Fair Work Commission takes them very seriously and can order, after a time-consuming and costly-case, that they must be implemented at work.
At Legal Consolidated, building a Bullying and harassment policy benefits both the employee and employer. Everyone becomes clear on the expectations at work, which creates safety for the employee and security for the employer.
This policy provides information for employees on their rights and obligations when using of work-related vehicles and the associated data collected.
It outlines the general purpose of in-vehicle monitoring and details how data collected by the system is used by the employer.
The policy also regulates the management, operation and use of the in-vehicle monitoring system by employees.
It is used to regulate the management, operation and use of long service leave. This policy only applies to employees eligible to accrue long service leave.
It is used to regulate employees who suffer an illness or injury.
The No Smoking Policy policy:
The policy applies to all employees, contractors and visitors to the workplace and is used in conjunction with the “Grievance policy”.
This policy is used to regulate the management, operation and use of paid parental leave. This policy only applies to employees who are eligible to receive paid parental leave.
This policy provides a structured process for employers to use to manage the performance of your employees. In managing the unsatisfactory performance of employees, this policy requires that the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness underpin all actions undertaken by supervisors or managers.
This policy is used regardless of the size of the business or organisation and is applicable to all employees.
This policy works in conjunction with the “Termination of employment policy”.
The policy is used to regulate the management, operation and use of personal leave.
This policy applies to all employees who are permanent and eligible to receive personal leave.
This policy is used with other policies, such as the “Annual leave policy” and “Termination of employment policy”.
This policy is used to implement a policy for redundancy for employees. It regulates the management and operation redundancy or redeployment of employees.
This policy applies to all employees who are eligible for redundancy.
This policy may be used in conjunction with other policies, such as the “Termination of employment policy”.
It is suitable for use in any workplace.
The policy provides definitions of social media and a process for employees who may have a complaint. It also provides for sanctions if an employee is breaching the policy.
This policy provides information for employees for acceptable social media use in the workplace.
The policy sets out how you manage situations where an employee is using social media for unacceptable reasons.
This policy is suitable for use in any business with persons who are:
This policy may be used in conjunction with other policies, such as “Confidentiality policy”, “Employee standard of conduct guidelines”, “Harassment and bullying policy”, and “Termination of employment policy”.
In the case of Stutsel v Linfox Australia Pty Ltd  FWA 8444, Mr Stutsel, a driver at Linfox, was dismissed for serious misconduct. Mr Stutsel had made rude and racially derogatory comments on his Facebook page about his two managers. This included sexually inappropriate messages and phrases such as ‘bacon hater’.
However, the Court found Mr Stutsel had been unfairly dismissed by Linfox and ordered his reinstatement and compensation for lost wages.
How is this possible? The Court emphasised that Linfox did not have any social media policies in place, and although Mr Stutsel’s comments were disgraceful, there was no valid reason for his termination. If there was a social media policy in place, an employee would not get away with racially and sexually charged hate speech online.
If Linfox had built a social media policy with Legal Consolidated there would have been a clear breach and, therefore, a valid reason to dismiss Mr Stutsel. This would have saved Linfox a lot of time, money, and two failed Court cases.
This policy regulates the management and processes surrounding the termination of employment.
This policy is used in conjunction with the “Redundancy policy” and the “Absenteeism policy”.
This policy provides a framework for the employer to meet its legislative obligations in the workplace for victimisation. It also provides information to employees about their rights and obligations to victimisation.
This policy applies to all activities and all people involved in those activities, that take place on work premises and elsewhere where activities are undertaken in the course of employment, or at work-related activities, such as social functions. The policy applies to employees, contractors, customers, and visitors.
This policy is used in conjunction with the “Harassment and bullying policy”, the “Anti-discrimination policy” and the “Grievance policy”.
This policy provides a framework for whistleblowers to disclose information. It deals with issues on misconduct, malpractice, internal controls and conflicts of interest, to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations applicable to the employer and its employees, and to deal with concerns that are likely to arise in the work environment. This policy applies to all employees.
This policy is used in conjunction with the “Employee standard of conduct guidelines”, and the “Grievance policy”.
This policy is used to regulate the management, operation and use of surveillance equipment such as a closed-circuit television system.
This policy applies to all persons present at the workplace including employees, contractors, customers and visitors.
Modern slavery is a crime resulting in an abhorrent abuse of the human rights of vulnerable workers. It can take various forms, such as slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking.
Australian business must by law have a zero-tolerance approach to modern slavery and should be committed to acting ethically and with integrity and transparency in all of its business dealings and relationships and to implementing and enforcing effective systems and controls. This is to ensure that modern slavery and human trafficking are not taking place anywhere within either its own business or in any of its supply chains, consistent with its obligations under the Australian Modern Slavery Act (Cth).
The Work from Home policy helps employers to set their employees up to work remotely, by spelling out the responsibilities of staff during the remote work, the situations in which a remote working arrangement may be authorised, and the conditions for remote work.
This Work from Home Policy covers what work from home is and provides guidelines. It deals with the effective process of handling work from home, how to make the workspace meet our criteria, managing mental space while working from home and the responsibilities of the management to support employees.
The Work from home policy provides assistance and support to employees. This is where they are working from home or working remotely. The safety and well-being of employees are very important while we maintain business continuity.
When it comes to working from home, technology has a large role to play. The proliferation of smartphones, laptops, and productivity apps has made it easier to work from anywhere. Not only does it ensure everyone has the tools and software they need to do their jobs well, but it also protects the business, employee, and customer information.
Remote work arrangements should take into consideration the:
Well-being is a priority as employees learn to work in different ways in this uncertain time. The Legal Consolidated policy encourages employees to contact their manager if there are any circumstances that inhibit their ability to work remotely. All employees are encouraged to take regular breaks, stretch when they are able and avoid sitting for long periods.
Employees should be available and contactable by managers, colleagues and stakeholders as per a normal working day in the office. Teams are encouraged to discuss and agree on how and when they will communicate to stay in touch and support each other. Managers are encouraged to check in with employees regularly to discuss how work priorities are progressing and discuss any emerging issues.
Employees may be able to claim additional expenses as a tax deduction but should seek independent advice about this, that is specific to their circumstances. Employees may be entitled to a remote work allowance for home office consumables and utilities. Employers should endeavour to administer both the one-off payment and weekly allowance through their payroll while giving regard to their own local operating environment and systems. Only employees whose roles allow them to work remotely and who are likely to incur additional expenses in working remotely should be eligible to receive payments.
A policy is a statement which underpins how human resource management issues are dealt with at your business. It communicates your values and expectations of employee behaviours and performance.
Workplace Policies reinforce and clarify standard operating procedures. They help you manage staff more effectively by clearly defining acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the workplace and set out the implications of not complying with those policies.
For help building these Workplace policies press Start Building. And then read the hints and watch the training videos.
Adj Professor, Dr Brett Davies, CTA, AIAMA, BJuris, LLB, Dip Ed, BArts(Hons), LLM, MBA, SJD
Legal Consolidated Barristers and Solicitors
National Australian law firm
National: 1800 141 612
Mobile: 0477 796 959
Email: [email protected]