With a few exceptions, businesses do not have to have written employment policies. However, setting policies down in writing is often prudent.
Not always necessary, but often better
Employment policies can cover a broad range of subjects, including employee conduct, safety, personal information, and employee rights and entitlements (among other things). A policy need not be recorded in writing to exist and to impose obligations on employees to comply with it. However, written policies will generally be much more effective for managing the workplace and also a helpful if the terms of the policy are disputed or litigated.
Written policies have the advantage of making expectations clear and keeping everyone on the same page. They can also provide a roadmap for managements when navigating challenging situations such as an allegation of bullying in the workplace that must be impartially investigated.
Some policies are mandatory
In some jurisdictions, legislation mandates that businesses have certain written policies. For example, in Alberta, organizations must have policies and practices for the protection of personal information and must be able to provide written information about those policies and practices when requested. Similarly, Alberta’s occupational health and safety legislation mandates that employers develop workplace violence and harassment prevention plans.