Creating workplace policies and procedures

Workplace policies and procedures provide extra detail about how things are done and what’s expected, which might not be covered in the employment agreement or job description.

What are workplace policies and procedures?

Workplace policies and procedures explain the rules and expectations in the workplace.

Job descriptions and employment agreements set expectations for individual roles. Other rules and expectations that apply in the workplace are set by policies, procedures, manuals, codes and guidelines.


Policies explain the rules, what’s expected in different situations and why. For example, what the employer’s and employees’ responsibilities are. They help ensure laws are met and guide decision-making.

Sometimes policies are called ‘codes’. For example, a ‘code of conduct’ is a policy on expected behaviour at work.


Procedures explain the way something should be done, for example, how to raise a personal grievance.

Guidelines and manuals

Guidelines and manuals provide extra guidance to support employees in situations where they need to use their judgement. They provide a framework of things to consider rather than telling someone what to do.

Why have workplace policies and procedures?

Clear workplace policies and procedures:

  • set consistent expectations in the workplace 
  • help prevent misunderstandings
  • mean employees do not have to guess what’s expected of them.

For example, a documented dress code helps new employees know what’s acceptable to wear when they start work. For information about dress codes, see:

Dress code

Sometimes workplace policies and procedures are not written down but have been established through custom and practice. Although policies can be unwritten, putting them in writing makes it easier for employers to enforce them, and means employees have access to the same information.

We recommend that all workplace rules are documented even if people in the workplace already follow them.

Developing workplace policies and procedures

Employers should develop workplace policies and procedures that:

  • are relevant for their business — for example, if company credit cards are not issued, a credit card usage policy is unnecessary
  • reflect how they want their workplace to operate
  • guide decision-making
  • are consistent with relevant legislation and regulations.

This means considering things like:

  • problems that have come up in the past and how to avoid them happening again 
  • any questions from workers, for example, ‘How do I…?’, ‘Can I…?’, ‘Am I allowed to…?’, ‘What would happen if I…?’ 
  • any legislation or common law that may apply to the area covered by the policy — get a legal view if you are not sure
  • what is fair and reasonable 
  • the workplace culture your organisation wants to create or maintain
  • how the policy or procedure will be implemented.

Policies and procedures that others in the industry have can be useful starting points, but employers should make sure that what they come up with suits their own organisation. 

Consulting on policies and procedures

Consultation with employees or  on draft policies and procedures is required in some circumstances. For example, it could be required by a or as part of acting in .

If consultation is required, employers must allow time for this and consider the feedback they receive before finalising the policy or procedure.

Even if it’s not a formal requirement, we recommend that employees are consulted as policies and procedures are developed. Consultation can lift support for policies and help employees understand them.

Communicating workplace policies and procedures

It’s important everyone knows about the policies and procedures they are expected to follow at work. This includes new and updated policies or procedures. If a policy or procedure is difficult to find and employees haven’t been told about it, it’s difficult to hold them responsible if they don’t follow it.

Roles and responsibilities for implementing and managing workplace policies need to be clear. Sometimes employment agreements contain clauses that require employees to keep themselves up to date with workplace policies and procedures. Even if a clause like this is in place, employers should still regularly make sure people in the workplace know about policies and procedures.

Employers could consider:

  • publishing the documents on their organisation’s intranet
  • discussing the policies or procedures in team meetings
  • making hard copies available 
  • providing training on the policies or procedures. 

The relevant union should also have a copy.

It’s a good idea to add a version number and date to each policy or procedure so employees know which is the current version.

Review policies and procedures 

Once a policy or procedure has been implemented, employers should schedule a date to review it. Regular reviews help make sure the policy or procedure is still accurate and fit for purpose.

Raising concerns about a workplace policy or procedure

Employers should have processes in place for employees to:

  • raise any concerns about the requirements in a workplace policy or procedure — for example, if they think the requirements in a policy are unreasonable
  • raise any concerns about compliance with a policy or procedure — for example, if they believe other employees are not following a policy.

Suggested workplace policies

Workplace policies and procedures can cover a wide range of areas. Some areas where we recommend having policies in place are listed below.

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