By Vaughan Granier

Clear, effective, and consistent workplace policies are an essential ingredient in any successful franchise system; they guide the business overall and support best-practice decision making by franchisees.

Sure, smaller businesses can often work without policies, either because they don’t have the time or expertise to create them, or perhaps they view them as an imposition on the freedom of the owners to manage the business. As an example, many managers want the freedom to reward a good employee with flexibility in leave-taking, but to give a ‘not-so-good employee’ less freedom. This kind of ‘managerial discretion’ to do as one wishes is highly risky – especially in a franchise system – as the inconsistency and unfairness it creates is a personal grievance waiting to happen.

The primary benefit of policies is that they’re designed to minimise corporate risk and enhance good faith in the workplace. For franchisors, policies and procedures are also a valuable tool for encouraging good employment practices across dispersed franchise locations.

So, if you’re unsure where to start when building or reviewing your franchise HR policies and procedures, here’s my list of the top 10 ‘must have’ workplace policies for franchisees:

1.     Health and Safety at Work Policy

Workplace injuries can affect your franchise business in many ways, including decreased productivity, sick-pay obligations, and the cost of finding a replacement. A solid H&S policy highlights safety procedures and the responsibilities of all employees to keep the workplace safe.

2.     Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination Policy

Did you know a franchisee can be held legally responsible for acts of discrimination or harassment in their business? To minimise the risk, you need to show you’ve taken all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination or harassment in your workplace. But without a comprehensive policy, this is almost impossible!

Having a policy in place tells employees in no uncertain terms what constitutes bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, and other types of inappropriate behaviour at work. A good Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination policy will also outline procedures for making and dealing with complaints.

3.     Code of Conduct

A Code of Conduct is important for setting the standard of behaviour you expect from your employees. Common issues such as dress code, mobile phone use, punctuality and the use of company property will be included in a Code of Conduct.

By outlining unacceptable behaviour and educating employees on business values through a policy, you’re in a better position to manage any unacceptable conduct in the workplace.

4.     Drug and Alcohol Policy

The use of drugs and alcohol during, and outside of, work hours can present significant safety risks and costs to your business through injuries, absenteeism and lost productivity. A drug and alcohol policy can promote and maintain a risk-free work environment while outlining the rights of your business to test employees for drug use.

5.     Leave Policy

For franchise businesses that experience seasonal busy periods, a leave policy can be invaluable. A leave policy can include ‘blackout’ periods during busy periods, and increased notice periods for employees applying for leave, to ensure you aren’t left understaffed. It can also clarify annual shutdown periods, rules around advance or negative leave, and how you handle high leave balances.

6.     Grievance Policy

Most businesses will have to deal with a workplace dispute at some point. A grievance policy is an important tool to help employees understand what steps they should follow when lodging a complaint, and exactly what’ll happen when they do.

7.     Performance Counselling and Discipline Policy

Performance management is a common practice in any business but can be a delicate process. A policy will assist you in remaining compliant with requirements of procedural fairness and will outline to employees how your franchise will deal with unacceptable conduct.

8.     Internet and Email Policy

With the increased use of technology in businesses, it’s important to manage inappropriate internet usage. An internet and email policy will define what is an inappropriate use of company computers and internet resources, as well as what’ll happen to employees who breach the policy.

9.     Social Media Policy

Social media use is rapidly increasing and becoming part of our working lives. A social media policy is essential to protect your company’s reputation, especially if employees list their place of employment on their profiles. Social media can blur the lines between professional and personal networks, so it’s a good idea to let employees know that how they behave on social media reflects on the franchise brand and could have consequences when it comes to their employment.

10. Privacy Policy

Employers have a responsibility to safeguard the personal information of employees and customers. Therefore, businesses must have a policy in place articulating how private information is used and managed. A privacy policy makes it clear what information is allowed to be made public, and what information needs to stay private or within the walls of the franchise. A privacy policy should include employee health records and personal information such as addresses, phone numbers and emails.

Workplace policies are a simple way to equip your franchise to handle many common HR and H&S matters. 

With these 10 policies in place, your franchisees will be off to a great start. Your next priority should be ensuring every franchisee is keeping their policies and procedures up to date with current laws and regulations.

Of course, policies are not the only documents vital to both ensure and prove to the Labour Inspector that compliance measures are in place; the most obvious of these is the employment contract! You can also further reduce risk and ensure your employer obligations are met by keeping records of the following:

  • health and safety risks and hazards generally;
  • written records of health and safety planning and discussion;
  • induction documents that prove employees were inducted and had knowledge of procedures and policies; and
  • job descriptions.

Our HR Software, HRA Cloud, allows you to download all these HR policies and more. Plus, you never have to worry about updating your HR documents when the law changes; we’ll do that for you.  Our Workplace Relations Specialists can also draft tailored HR Policies and documentation to suit your unique franchise needs.

Curious about how HR Assured can help your franchise reduce the time spent on HR admin, so you and every franchisee can focus on growing your business? 

If you’re a member of the Franchise Association of New Zealand (FANZ) and you have a question about workplace policies, you can try our award-winning Telephone Advisory Service for FREE. Contact the FANZ Workplace Advice Line for a 30-min no-obligation consultation.

 Not a FANZ member?  Contact us to find out how we can help your franchise business.

Vaughan Granier is the National Workplace Relations Manager for HR Assured NZ. He has over 24 years of experience in international human resources, health and safety, and workplace relations management. With over 10 years working in New Zealand and Australian companies, he provides in-depth support to leadership teams across all areas of HR, Health and Safety, and employee management.