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20 Must-Have HR Policies and Forms for Employee Management

Mathew Maniyamkott

Last Updated:  

29 July 2020

10 min read

Not complying with the federal, state, and local laws can backfire in ways that a business might have never imagined. Getting your papers right is pivotal when you are running a registered company. The Human Resources team in your office is one of the core departments that can save you from a lot of legal tangles. Here, you will find a razzmatazz of processes, procedures, policies, databases, policies, guidelines, etc. All of them play a significant role in the smooth functioning of a business.

Small businesses that don’t have an HR department usually struggle with defining roles and other functionalities. When there is no system in place, you will find records and policies are not being maintained properly which will lead to eventual chaos.

With changing workspaces and evolving policies, it is a must that you have an HR manager and team that sets processes and guidelines. You can set clear boundaries, protect your business from litigation, create guidelines for employee behavior, and prevent misunderstandings in the office.

What is an HR policy?

HR policies provide structure to an organization through which businesses can run without any hassle. It will reflect the standards of behavior that is acceptable within the organization and help with clear communication. It is created in association with the employers, local labor laws, and keeping in mind the company’s objectives.

The functions can be on the following:

  • Treating employees within the company.
  • Setting employee and employer expectations.
  • Creating a healthy work environment.
  • Establishing standards for managers.
  • Regular review of policies that affect the well-being of employees.
  • Making sure that policies are in alignment with local laws
  • To provide clear information to all the employees.
  • Passing information on how employees can follow the policies in the organization

Why is it necessary to have defined HR policies?

Does your company have a social media policy? Maybe it does, but how aware are you of it? If you were to misuse it unknowingly, you might even be fired for it. You might think it is unreasonable, but those were the rules. The onus of informing its employees about the HR policies on various matters falls on the employer.

The HR policies put in place should reflect everything that the modern workspace stands for. Here’s why HR policies are important:

  • It helps the organization to address complaints, grievances, and problems of the employees.
  • They help the organization to train employees to understand the needs of the organization
  • They help maintain discipline and civility in the workspace
  • It ensures that each employee is cared for without any partiality
  • They help employees receive fair compensation
  • For anything untoward that happens, HR policy will list down guidelines on how to handle it.

20 Essential HR Policies and Forms to Have

Your company’s HR policies might depend on a lot of factors, we have outlined some of the most important policies that a company must put in place. There is no excuse for slacking on them.

1. Recruitment Process

If you think that recruiting is only interviewing candidates, then you couldn’t be more wrong. The company has to have a plan for the number of people they want for a particular role and also analyze how much salaries they can afford. They should create a roadmap for the employee on his/her role and also their career trajectory. The new recruits should be clear about their responsibilities. The company should be prepared for all of this, otherwise, the new recruits will be struggling in the workspace because of lack of direction.

Here are some of the HR documents that a recruitment process should have:

  • Job Responsibilities
  • Employee Agreement
  • Background Verification Forms
  • New Employee Onboarding Process
  • New Employee Joining Checklist
  • Offer Letter

These documents should be clearly written so that there is no confusion for anyone who reads it or is trying to enforce it. The HR documents should be detailed and not leave out anything.

2. Performance Appraisals

There are a lot of methods that businesses use for appraisals. It is an integral part of the company’s HR policies. It throws light on many things, starting from salary increments to employees, promotions, development needs, training requirements, etc. The performance appraisal program involves asking questions. The results are based on both subjective and objective questions to the employees. They are usually conducted on an annual basis but performance reviews can happen on a regular basis.

A performance appraisal document should contain the following:

  • Employee goal list
  • Employee performance form
  • Reviews
  • Employee evaluation questions checklist
  • Self-evaluation form
  • Peer-evaluation form
  • Post-appraisal question

All the employees should be privy to the process that happens during an appraisal so that they can be better prepared. There should be utmost clarity when jotting down the guidelines for this as employees are touchy about this subject since it involves money.

3. Bullying and Discrimination Policy

If a co-worker bullies or discriminates against an employee, do you know that the business can be held legally responsible for it even though they might have nothing to do with it? This is why it is important that you have bullying and discrimination policy so that the business can create an atmosphere in the office where there can be no discrimination. If there is no policy specifically to address such acts, it is as if the bully is being given a free reign. A responsible company wouldn’t want to put themselves in jeopardy because of the act of a single person.

Having a policy clearly states that as a business you do not encourage if someone doesn’t show respect to their co-workers. It could be sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying, or anything that can be considered as disrespectful or inappropriate.

4. Drug and Alcohol policy

Using drugs and alcohol in the office premises even outside working hours can lead to unsavory situations. There are significant risks to it and a smart business owner would ensure that the environment is risk-free. It will also outline the rights of a business to test its employees for drug use.

5. Company’s history and culture

This might seem trivial on the outside but your employees need to know your story and the culture that you follow in the workspace. A lot of employees stop working with a company when they realize that they are not a culture-fit. Before they become a part of the organization, employees must have an idea of who you are and what you stand for.

Employees should understand the values that you espouse and also get to know how they should present themselves as the representatives of the company. They should know about the milestones that the company achieved over the years.

If there is no defined company culture, then it is something that you need to pick a pen and paper to write down. Your vision statement, mission statement, and the principles that your business stands by should be explicitly mentioned to the customers.

6. Leave Policy

Your employees should know when they are expected to be in the workplace. They also need to be told what should be done from your side if you cannot make it work. Who will handle your responsibilities? Who do you need to inform? It should also outline the break hours, the procedure to clock in and out, etc.

They also need to be told about the number of leaves that you can take in a month. Do the accrued leaves carry over to the next year? Or can you get paid for those leaves? There are many more aspects you can include in your leave policy.

7. Employee Promotion Policy

When an employee advances in his/her career, they go upwards within the company where they get a higher job/role. This higher job comes with its own responsibility, tasks, roles, perks, etc. Having a strong promotion policy in place is important for businesses so that there is clarity for all the employees in the organization.

A promotion policy will also set the tone for employees so that they are in the know about how much effort needs to be put and what needs to be achieved to reach the next level at their jobs. Promotion should be offered to employees who are also capable of taking up new roles and managing people. Those who cannot do that but are still good performers should be rewarded.

8. Handbook acknowledgment

Once an employee signs this form, they acknowledge that they have fully read and understood the company policies. They promise to work in adherence to these rules. The company should get a sign from the employees even when there are changes in the handbook so that there is ample proof to state that the employees were communicated about it.

9. Compensation and Benefits

There is no doubt about the fact that money is a great motivation for people to work. If they are not compensated properly, employees will leave the organization. If there is no proper policy when it comes to paying employees, it can lead to chaos as people usually have bills to pay by a particular date.

Each company has its own payments policy as a part of the Compensation and Benefits policy. This policy includes information on the overhead calculation, reimbursements, salary calculation, etc.

10. Internet and Email Policy

With access to the Internet easily possible, if an employee thinks that it is okay to visit certain restricted websites using their work computer, they might be in for a rude shock. There have been many cases where employees have been fired because they were watching porn or spending unnecessary time on the Internet browsing banned websites through VPNs.

Businesses should frame an Internet and Email policy which will clearly state what kind of Internet behaviour is not appropriate and the punishment that will be meted out in such cases.

11. Social Media Policy

Internet usage is completely different from social media usage. A lot of people are extremely opinionated on their social media handles. While having an opinion is not wrong, if you end up using it to spread hatred to people or you use it in such a way that it causes disrepute to the company, then you are putting them in a bad position.

When you are on social media, there is not a lot of difference between the personal and professional. It is pivotal that you let your employees know why they are being warned against behaving in a certain manner and how it will be regulated.

12. Privacy Policy

If there is one thing that no one saw coming when the Internet started is that our privacy will go for a toss because of it, no one would have believed you. Businesses must be careful about how the information of employees is being used.

A privacy policy should tell how their details, health information, etc., are being stored and used. The privacy policy document will also inform you which information can be fetched

13. Training and Development

After the performance appraisal, the management understands that there are some employees who need a bit more hand-holding. They need to be sent to training which will help them get better at their jobs. Employees who are being sent to get training should know what is expected of them and how their jobs will affect the bottom line of the company.

Even if it doesn’t make a difference to the bottom line, the employees need to be told how they are contributing to the betterment of the company. When you are training them in specialized areas, employees need to be aware of the objectives, processes, deliverables expected from them, and so on.

14. Safety and Health Policy

The policies outlined here will concentrate on the safety of the employees and the emergency procedures that are supposed to be followed. It stipulates that the employees are asked to report if there are any work-related injuries. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, businesses need to follow certain regulations if they are to create a workplace where the employees are safe. Based on the industry, there need to be more safety procedures in place.

15. Grievance Redressal

The HR policy document must mention the grievance redressal procedure in the workspace that is to be followed when an employee complains against someone else in the company. There should also be a grievance redressal committee to look after instances like this. The complaints can be of any nature, but it will be addressed only when they happen during the course of employment of the said person.

16. Intellectual Property

As a trusted employee, you will be privy to a lot of information that the company guards with secrecy as it is advantageous the business. There should be a policy about non-disclosure of information and Intellectual Property that the employees are given access to, it is a must-have document for HRs.

In fact, details about this are supposed to be a part of the signing when they are being onboarded. The employee should sign the document stating that they abide by the request and promise not to divulge any information which would affect the prospects of their present employer.

17. Travel Policy

Having a travel policy gives standardized rules that should be followed by the employees when they are traveling for work. When there is a process set, employees don’t have to waste time in making arrangements. It will mention details about boarding, lodging, travel travel policy format, conveyance arrangement, insurance, entitlement details, best practices, etc.

The reason behind having a travel policy is to ensure that the travel expenses are controlled by having certain standards. Non-adherence to this policy will result in disciplinary actions which may even be termination.

18. Dress Code Policy

This policy gives information about the dress code of the employees in the office. Some businesses do not care about the dress code as the work environment will be casual. But serious organizations like banks, insurance, hospitals, cannot afford to slack on a dress code. The policy confirms the days on which employees can wear casual dress and days on which only formal attire is expected. The organization expects its employees to act in a dignified and responsible manner when they are in the office, and a major part of that reflects on how someone dresses.

19. Transfer Policy

It implies that an employee is either replaced or moved lateral or there is a change in terms of the location, department, or shift. The transfer is different from a job promotion because there is no remuneration involved. The Transfer Policy document talks about the types of job transfers that usually happen within the company, the terms and conditions that are supposed to be followed, and other factors that are involved in this process.

The transfer policy also includes the transfer documents that are a part of the process. The reason behind transfer should be mentioned in the transfer policy so there is clarity for everyone involved. The transfer can be temporarily based on the needs of the organization.

20. Whistleblower policy

Someone who raises their voice against something that is not right is called a whistleblower. The whistleblower might be complaining against a person, employee, employer, process, system, or even a procedure in the organization. The Whistleblower policy states that the company should give freedom and allow its employees to report to the management about anything illegal or immoral going on.

According to the policy, the whistleblower should follow the rules set in the whistleblower policy to raise the objection. The policy will guide the individuals who want to blow the whistle when they see a wrongful act committed.


We have outlined at least twenty HR policies that will improve the operations of a business as well as put themselves away from risk. It is one of the easiest ways to communicate clearly with your employees. The HR handbook is something that you cannot early inform the employees. It helps the senior management to make better decisions while making it easy for the employees to have clarity on the rules that are supposed to be followed.

HR policies offer a strategic direction to the company while making the employees more productive by making all the rules transparent. Unfortunately, there are a lot of small and medium-sized businesses that still make impulsive decisions when met with a problem. There can be significant problems when there are no policies in place. Do not put your company in jeopardy by not following HR policies.

Mathew Maniyamkott

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

Regular contributor to various magazines. Passionate about entrepreneurship, startups, marketing, and productivity.

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