Our last blog post discussed ‘must-have’ workplace policies in Ontario. But, in this blog post, we will discuss ‘good to have’ or ‘nice to have’ recommended workplace policies.
Although any legislation in Ontario requires none of these workplace policies, they are all encouraged by HR experts and employment lawyers because they serve to communicate the company’s internally written laws. In turn, they help employees apprehend the standards expected of them by their employer and make clear what is and isn’t allowed. In the result, if there is ever any dispute about wrongdoing at work, the policies can serve as the authority.
Note that in Ontario, I would put forth that discipline policies are not required as ‘good to have’. Employers have a right to discipline or terminate an employee however they like. “Just cause” terminations are already defined in the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (and shouldn’t be defined by a company for this reason), and ‘Without Cause’ terminations can be for any reason or no reason at all.
Five Good To Have Workplace Policies
1. Bonus Plan
A company that gives out bonuses should make a written policy spelling out the discretionary nature of the bonus, the formula for calculating the bonus, and what happens in case the bonus is paused or when an employee is terminated. In the latter case, an employer can shield itself from the common law of damages and end bonus payments much earlier than any reasonable notice period expires.
2. Social Media Policy
In this day and age, a social media policy will serve any business well. Most employees have at least one personal social media account, and a clear set of personal social media account rules spelling out what an employee cannot say online is a wise move. Rule number one should be no posting hateful or discriminatory content.
3. Drug And Alcohol Policy
A solid drug and alcohol policy should generally ban the use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace but spell out exemptions. For example, this policy should make clear that imbibing alchol moderately is allowed at social functions like Christmas parties and after-work drinks. At the same time, the drug and alcohol policy should deal with accommodating requirements for using prescribed medical cannabis and other narcotics. Note that while Ontario law prohibits smoking or vaping cannabis for a medical purpose in an enclosed workplace, an employee can consume edible cannabis for a medical purpose related to a disability at work, as long as it does not interfere with workplace health and safety or performing essential job duties.
4. Electronics Policy
A policy that covers workplace electronics, like computers, phones, cameras, and the internet, is a must-have, especially in a world where many workplaces are moving remote post-covid. Beware, this will be a lengthy policy covering many different issues like, for example:
- Anti-phishing polices
- Employee monitoring
- Email-use after hours
- The expectation of privacy at work on camera or on company-issued devices
- Crypto mining on company property
- Restrictions on visiting certain websites or online games
- Return of electronics after the employee exits the job
In addition to protecting an employer from potential pitfalls presented by all electronics at work, an electronics use policy functions as a communication tool to employees. A good policy should clarify exactly what’s acceptable – and what isn’t – when it comes to electronics use.
5. Anti-discrimination Policy
Surprisingly, in Ontario, the government has never required employers to adopt an anti-discrimination policy. However, this is still a ‘good to have’ policy that employers should embrace. An anti-discrimination policy should make it clear that discrimination is illegal at work, describe what is discriminatory, provide methods for eliminating discrimination, and lastly, discuss how the workplace will accommodate workers to stamp out all forms of discrimination.