Spring clean your HR department: How to update your internal policies

Failure to keep on top of legal changes will result in hefty fines

Spring clean your HR department: How to update your internal policies

Spring has sprung and with it employers are looking to clean out and clear up their internal policies. This really is the best time to sort out any outdated HR policies, before the onslaught of vacation requests heading your way this Summer. But where to begin? Return to work policies, right to disconnect, electronic monitoring? Well, according to one legal expert, it’s time for a full-service sweep.

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“It’s essential you ensure all policies and employee handbooks up to date,” lawyer Andrew Caldwell told HRD. “Not only is it important to ensure employees are made aware of all changes, but handbooks must be current and compliant with any legislative changes. Laws and best practices are constantly changing so it is important to update your policies and handbooks accordingly to ensure your company is meeting current standards.”

The everchanging legal landscape in Canada means HR leaders are having to upskill their legalese – particularly ahead of the Working for Workers deadline of June 2nd. If you are insistent on monitoring your employees’ online activity, you have to tell them first – failure to do so could culminate in penalties.

“Failing to inform staff will likely trigger the penalties prescribed by legislation and regulation for non-compliance,” Patrick Stepanian, employment law consultant, told HRD. “Employees would likely have recourse through the Ministry of Labour which could result in fines and other actions and could also seek remedy through the courts.”

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Electronic monitoring is nothing new – especially in remote work. In fact, data from Top10VPN found a 58% surge in demand for employee surveillance software since the pandemic began. So, if you’re keen to snoop on your staff bases activity, just make sure you let them know your intentions and update your policies accordingly.

Legal repercussions of outdated policies

Failure to have clearly outlined expectations and practices in well-maintained policies, or failure to have up to date policies, could lead an organization to not be compliant with its obligations. So, be complacent at your own peril.

“This leaves an organization open to lawsuits and other kinds of claims, such as through a Human Rights Tribunal or a Ministry of Labour complaint and investigation procedure,” added Caldwell. “This can lead to awards, settlements, fines, and public decisions which can have a wide range of negative effects on a business. Clearly outlining expectations and practices with well-maintained policies can prevent incidents that could result in lawsuits.”

If a lawsuit does arise, courts will often look at company policies to see if the organization is at fault. Having up to date policies helps a company demonstrate that they are engage in efforts to prevent situations. There is a school of thought that neglecting your organization’s policies can be like letting your insurance coverage lapse.

“If a policy becomes out of date, it can mean that the organization is no longer compliant with laws and regulations,” Caldwell told HRD. “This can have significant legal ramifications.”

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