Personnel Policies

Does your business have a personnel policy?  If it does, do you know what it says?  Do you follow and enforce it?  Do your employees have a copy?  Did they get a copy at the same time that they were hired?

If you answered "no" to any of the above questions, you should ask yourself whether "no" is a satisfactory answer.  There are advantages and disadvantages to having a personnel policy.  The advantage is that both you and your employees are clear on how you will deal with personnel issues.  The disadvantage is that you might put the policy book on a shelf and administer the policies sporadically or not at all.  Having a personnel policy and not enforcing it is perhaps the only thing worse than not having a personnel policy at all.

If you are creating a personnel policy, the first consideration is to ensure that your policies are consistent with the Ontario Employment Standards Act.  It is available online at the Ontario e-Laws site.  The standards in the Act are minimum standards, meaning you cannot offer any less to your employees.  However, you are free to offer policies or benefits that are better than the standards in the act.  One caution: if you do, you are now stuck with giving the increased benefit and cannot easily revert to the minimum standard.

For example, you are usually not required to pay an employee wages when they are home sick.  However, if you start a policy of paying so many sick days per year, you should not take away that benefit arbitrarily.

In your personnel policy, you may wish to consider the following items:

Vacation:  how much do people get; who determines when it is taken; how long do they have to work before they can start taking earned vacation; can someone take vacation before they have yet earned it?

Absence from work due to illness: is it acceptable for the employee to take a sick day when their spouse or children are ill?  Do doctors' appointments count as sick time or do you allow absence with pay without counting it against sick time?

Compassionate leave: how long can an employee be off work with or without pay to mourn the death of someone close?  Whose funerals will justify the leave -- children, in-laws, friends?

Finally, although I advocate strongly in favour of some sort of personnel policy, you should not go overboard and have some 3-volume epic that is so detailed and comprehensive that no-one would ever read it.  I have seen policies over 100 pages in length for an organization with fewer than 10 employees.  Totally excessive!

The most important part of administering personnel policies (whether they be written or not) is that you are consistent with your employees or employees of the same level.  Inconsistency is easily spotted by the employees and breeds tremendous discontent and resentment.  In my opinion, the easiest way to be consistent is to have a written policy and to ensure that you follow it.

Ian Johncox, Civil Litigation/Employment Lawyer/Mediator

Ian Johncox, Civil Litigation/Employment Lawyer/Mediator

Ian practices in the areas of employment law, occupier liability defence, franchise litigation and contract litigation. Ian is a trained mediator and conducts mediations in a wide range of civil (non-family) cases. His employment law practice includes acting for employers and employees, which gives him a balanced perspective to his clients’ issues.

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