Human resources policies are the standard procedures and rules that a company puts in place regarding the hiring, training, assessment, and rewarding of the organization’s workers. Such procedures can prevent many conflicts and misunderstandings between the employer and the workers. A well-drafted human resources policy will advise workers of their privileges and responsibilities in the workplace.
Human resources (HR) policies are typically included in the company’s employee handbook, which is given to all employees when they begin working with the organization. Sometimes, the employee’s human resources policy may form a part of the employment contract between the company and the employee. Accordingly, if a workplace conflict is litigated in court, it is usually supposed that the worker has consented to the company’s human resources policy.
What Is Included in a Human Resource Policy?
A well-drafted human resources policy should address all the fundamental interactions between employers and employees and those that occur between workers. In addition, the policy should be able to predict any potential conflicts or legal claims that might materialize in connection with workplace issues.
Some issues that the HR policy should include are:
- Use and ownership of company resources and products
- Harassment, prejudice, and other workplace disputes
- Wages, benefits, overtime pay, and vacation terms
- Refunds for business expenses (such as travel and lodging)
- Telecommuting policies
- Retirement and pension plans
- Substance abuse and drug testing
- Dress codes
- Mail, shipping, and fax policies
- Recreational activities
- Advancement policies
- Insurance/medical/dental policies
- Mechanisms for reporting/resolving disputes
Therefore, the human resources policy should encompass all significant employment concerns. It should also be tailored to include those conditions that may be distinctive to the company’s nature involved. For instance, if the company consists of a shipping business, the policy should highlight situations related to transportation and delivery.
Human resources policies must be drafted clearly and easily for employees to understand. Therefore, hiring a lawyer to draft the policy according to local business law standards may be necessary.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Human Resources Policy in Place?
The primary benefit of enforcing a human resource policy is that it can help avert expensive litigation fees in the future. A human resource policy should create avenues for workers to document any wrongdoing to managers. If the business can resolve the conflict internally, it could save expenses on lawsuits and spare the loss of workers.
Unfortunately, many business owners (especially small businesses) may feel that creating a human resources policy wastes time and resources. However, a formal policy may ultimately reduce costs in the long run. It may also help the company run more efficiently, particularly when the workers incorporate the policy standards into their work behavior.
Other advantages of a human resources policy include increased communication in the workplace, decreased management costs, and a more collaborative work environment.
Why Do HR Professionals Need Legal Knowledge?
HR positions are not one size fits all. Depending on the title, an HR employee’s duties can vary immensely. Some HR leaders are exclusively responsible for staffing. Others focus on worker development, while some deal strictly with salary and benefits, and others—the generalists—do it all.
Regardless of individual job functions, every HR role is a crucial duty. The law touches every occupation that falls under the HR umbrella somehow.
These experts are entrusted with routine on-the-spot judgments that can have powerful legal consequences. Understanding common HR-related laws give these industry employees the confidence to make these determinations or know when to contact outside counsel.
HR professionals with legal expertise also have a competitive edge in the workplace, as they can proactively minimize a business’s exposure to legal risk.
Working knowledge of existing laws and their real-world applications allows businesses to remain compliant and avoid unnecessary claims while also protecting the rights of valued employees.
Legal Topics Every HR Professional Should Know
There are several significant legal areas that all HR professionals should be familiar with to serve their employees and employers most effectively.
Workplace Discrimination Laws
Among the most critical legislation for HR professionals to understand, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws safeguard against discrimination based on age, disability, genetic information, national origin, race/color, sex, pregnancy, or religion. HR professionals should be acquainted with the individual laws that safeguard these protected classes of individuals, such as:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
- Equal Pay Act (EPA)
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
These regulations are practical in all stages of an employee’s lifecycle, from pre-hiring procedures through rightful termination. Discrimination claims can be brought even before a business brings someone in to interview, based on how job descriptions are crafted. HR professionals need to know the laws and the many ways they can be applied to avoid practices that expose an organization to undue liability.
There is also tremendous pressure on institutions to supply improved harassment training. HR employees must know what is legally considered harassment to help eradicate it in the workplace. Educated HR professionals can prevent harassment, protecting both the employees and the company.
Wage and Hour Laws
These rules, covering the wages and hours of employees, are controlled by the U.S. Department of Labor. The primary statute—the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—has several essential functions.
For example, this statute:
- Dictates the national minimum wage
- Specified the 40-hour workweek
- Outlines requirements for overtime pay
- Mandates child labor regulations
Another essential statute in this class is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, allowing qualified workers 12 weeks of unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, with a continuance of healthcare coverage and job protection. In 2010, this act was amended to include expanded flexibility for veterans and active military to offer them extra protection under the law.
Employee Benefits Laws
This class of regulations helps cover workers’ access to benefits.
The most prominent laws include:
- The Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” was enacted to improve access to affordable healthcare for those living below poverty levels.
- The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) specifies that any institution offering pension plans must meet specific minimum standards.
- The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) requires insurance programs to deliver qualified workers access to continued health insurance coverage for a period of time after leaving employment.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) affords workers and their dependents safety and privacy from releasing personal medical records. This rule also shields workers from discrimination based on medical conditions or history.
Should I Contact a Lawyer for Human Resources Policies?
To protect your company and your workers, you must have a comprehensive human resources policy in place. While no one else may know the ins and outs of your business like you do, you may not fully understand the law’s various requirements.
Therefore, you may wish to work with an employment lawyer when creating a human resources policy. Your attorney can help you create a policy that caters to your company’s needs and clearly defines the requirements of the law. Also, an attorney can be of assistance if your company is facing any internal or external legal claims. Use LegalMatch to resolve your legal claim today with the help of an experienced employment lawyer.