HR policies good job candidates look for in an employer

Which HR policies need to be in your company’s employee handbook? Here are five policies that can protect your business and encourage growth, safety, and productivity.

When you launch your business, the document you are most concerned with is probably your business plan. A good business plan will outline your company’s goals and serve as your roadmap for the future. As your business grows, another document will become equally as important: the employee handbook.

Every growing company with a base of employees needs an employee handbook. A handbook outlines a variety of key HR policies in writing. These policies help to “get everyone on the same page.” They can also protect your business from costly legal issues. The following five policies are basics that every company needs to have in writing to stay ahead of the curve:

1. A Recruitment Policy

Before you hire your company’s first employee, you need to have a thorough and well-documented recruitment and hiring policy in place. Map out the recruitment process, step by step. Start with how you advertise a vacant position, and move through the hiring process all the way to new employee onboarding. Here are a few items that your policy should outline:

Advertising: How will you get the word out about an open job? Will you emphasize internal hiring and advancement? Will you post jobs publicly to your website or on external job boards? Having this practice outlined will help you to avoid complaints from employees later on. An advertising plan will also help plot a path forward for finding the right person for the job.

Interviewing: Who will conduct the interview? How many people will conduct the interview? Will there be multiple interviews (phone, in-person, etc.) or just one? Which questions will you ask? Obviously, the answers to some of these questions may vary, depending on the job in question. However, every applicant for a specific job should experience a comparable interviewing process for the sake of fairness and equality.

Vetting: Which checks are you going to run on your applicant? Every recruitment policy should include reference checks, verifications of resume information, and criminal background checks. These checks ensure that you are doing your due diligence with every hire and they will help to avoid unsafe or unqualified hires. Just be sure your policy is well documented and thoroughly outlined. For instance, what types of criminal checks (county, state, multi-jurisdictional, etc.) are you going to run? At which point in the interview process will these checks take place? Make sure you are complying all relevant background check laws from local ordinances with EEOC and FCRA regulations.

Onboarding: What sort of training will employees go through after hiring? Which pieces of paperwork (tax forms, waivers, etc.) will they fill out on their first day? Having your onboarding policies lined up now will make things easier for all parties when new employees start work.

2. A Confidentiality Policy

Confidentiality policies are important for any business with proprietary information. From the designs of your products to the ingredients in a special “secret sauce” at your restaurant, proprietary information (or “trade secrets”) is the backbone of your business. Protecting your trade secrets is vital to keeping a competitive edge in your industry. A confidentiality policy will prohibit employees from disclosing proprietary information. If a disgruntled worker or ex-employee does break confidentiality, you will have the policy in writing—as well as a signed agreement from the employee—that you can use to pursue legal action.

3. A Workplace Safety Policy

Regardless of what type of business you run and the industry in which you operate, creating a safe workplace is a priority. Putting your company’s workplace safety policies down on paper defines what “safe practices” are for everyone in your organization. It also helps your business stay compliant with OSHA requirements and regulations. Violating OSHA can be costly: according to the organization’s official webpage, serious violations are punishable by fees of $7,000 for each instance. A “repeated or willful violation” could run your company up to $70,000. A well-defined set of safety policies for the workplace will help you avoid these fees, save money on worker’s compensation, and reduce lost productivity caused by injuries or illnesses.

4. A Sexual Harassment Policy

According to a survey conducted by Cosmopolitan, one in three women between the ages of 18 and 34 has been sexually harassed at work. Because of how common harassment is in the workplace—particularly for female employees—it is vital for your business to have a written policy on harassment.

In fact, California even has a law (the Fair Employment and Housing Act) that requires employers to have a “sexual harassment prevention policy.” This policy must outline procedures that victims of sexual harassment can use to lodge complaints against coworkers, customers, or clients. The employer is then required to investigate those complaints and take appropriate corrective action. An employer that fails to observe these requirements can be held legally liable for the harassment.

Not all states have a law like California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. However, it is vital for every company to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment. An H.R. policy that addresses sexual harassment will protect your business from legal negligence. It will also create a safer and more welcoming work environment for all employees and applicants.

5. A Termination Policy

Just as your business needs a thorough hiring policy, you also need a policy in place for disciplinary action and termination. Which violations, infractions, or forms of misconduct will result in discipline or termination? What happens to employees who are the subject of sexual harassment claims or other complaints? Defining criteria for discipline and termination and sticking to it with every employee will help your business to avoid accusations of discrimination or preferential treatment. It will also give you grounds to remove problematic employees. When the rules are in writing and your employees know about them, it is much more difficult for someone to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Contributor Michael KlazemaContributed by Michael Klazema. Michael has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.