About the 'Staff Policies' section of your Employee Handbook

Section # 028-CA

What are Staff Policies?

It's likely that one of the reasons you sought out ConnectsUs employee handbook is because you needed some policies that protect your company against inappropriate conduct and/or litigation. If that's the case, the Staff Policies section is likely the most important section of your Handbook.

There are 5 main sections in each provincial employee handbook. Policies that protect your staff and company's rights are grouped into one section called 'Staff Polices'. Your company and staff sign off and agree to adhere to the policies outlined in just this one section that acts as a binding addendum to employment contracts. 

Why is that Important?

We're all familiar with the following language in Canadian employee handbooks: "This handbook does not create a contract, and can be changed or revoked at any time".  Then what's the point of getting employees to sign off on an employee handbook?  The employee nor the company are contractually obligated to adhere to it.    

But what if only a section of the employee handbook creates a contract?  That's how we've structured the ConnectsUs Employee Handbook. The handbook does form a contract, but only a part of it. 

All policies that deal with an individual's conduct or actions that could impact your company or other employees' rights, are grouped into one section of your handbook called 'Staff Polices'' This restricts the terms and conditions of the contract to this one section in the handbook and separates it out from the rest.  

A signed employment agreement and Staff Policies Agreement (sometimes referred to as Employee Handbook Acknowledgement Form) together create a binding contract that lays out what you will do as a company, and what the employee agrees to do, and that includes adhering to Staff Policies.

The employee signs and agrees to: 

  • Provide services in good faith;
  • Adhere to the policies set out in the Staff Policies section of the handbook. 

Your company signs and agrees to:

  • Provide the employee with pay for their services
  • **Adhere to the policies set out in the Staff Policies section of the handbook
  • Adhere to the law as it relates to the workplace (understood)
  • Provide any other benefits outlined in the employment agreement. (which may point to individual policies outside of Staff Policies in the handbook - such as health benefits vacation or sick days)

**Notice that the company's obligation stops at the Staff Policies section of the handbook. This means that the remaining sections outside of Staff Policies:

  • Won't form additional company obligations
  • Aren't a guarantee by your company of the conditions and benefits that are described within them
  • Aren't a promise by your company of specific treatment in a specific situation.

These non-Staff Policies may include topics such as training and development or processes for performance improvement plans. Because these topics weren't included in the contract, they are known as 'guidelines' and your company has some flexibility to revise them during unfavorable business climates, without deeming the revision a change in terms of employment.  It also means that the company doesn't have to provide employees with additional 'consideration' to adhere to them when they do change. 

You'll also notice that the Legislated Policies & Legislated Leaves are likewise outside of Staff Policies, including important policies such as Family Medical Leave and Workplace Violence.  These are legislated policies and the company has to adhere to them by law - even if they're not in written form, and they don't need to be signed off by staff.

What does need to be signed off by staff is that they won't engage in acts such as workplace violence, discrimination, harassment, and those are dealt with in the Code of Conduct policy which points to detailed definitions of each formal term.  The Code of Conduct policy is included in Staff Policies, and is therefore part of the contract that the employee signed and agreed to adhere to. 

Why include it?

The Staff Policies section is a fundamental 'must-have' for your Handbook. It protects your rights as a company when staff have to sign off that they understand and will adhere to the obligations  set out in this section during (and sometimes after) their Engagement with your company.  It's included so that staff: 

  • Understand and agree to their obligations and what they can and cannot do while at work and when off duty. Example: Code of conduct, Off-Duty Conduct, Personal Activities in the Workplace, Dating Co-workers
  • Understand your rights as a company. Example: No expectation to Workplace privacy, Consequences of Non-Adherence to Staff Policies

Recommended Staff Policies Sign Off Procedures

Here's how ConnectsUs has structured the flow for employee sign-off of Staff Policies:

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