I am sure that everyone has heard some version of the quote, “Rules are made to be broken.” As an attorney, this makes me cringe. Often times when I am reviewing a file or talking to an employer I note that there is a handbook, manual, policy or other form of rules reduced to writing. Then, I dig deeper, and I find that while there may be all of these rules or policies written down, they are all too often not enforced. Simply having the rule reduced to writing does not somehow relieve all other responsibility if the rule is not followed and an employee is injured. It is alarming how many times employees are interviewed and questioned about a company handbook or policy manual and the question is met with a bewildered look and a response such as, “What handbook? We have one of those?!”
The day–to-day challenges involved in running a business make it difficult to ensure that employees are informed of the rules, and that managers do their jobs to enforce the rules. However, doing so is absolutely critical. Spending 15-20 minutes on a training for employees to discuss the company rules/policies will prove to be invaluable. Each employee needs to not only know where to look to find the company’s rules/policies, but they also need to know who to talk to about questions they may have. Further, training for managers who are tasked with enforcing the rules can prove to be extremely effective and prevent injuries to employees. Rules are not made to be broken – they are made to ensure the safety of the employees and promote an efficient and effective workforce. Emphasizing that the rules are there to protect the employees is key to helping the employees understand the importance of having them followed. I have seen too many times that an injury occurred that could have been avoided had an employee followed the rule/policy put into place. I have also seen too many times when an employer may have the rule, but it is only enforced sparingly, leading to a lackadaisical attitude amongst the employees regarding following the rules because they know if they don’t, there will be no negative repercussions.
If a rule/policy is violated, immediately address that with the employee and note it in their personnel file. It would be prudent to document the conversation and have the employee sign something acknowledging that the rule/policy was discussed with them as a result of their violation. It is much easier to address these issues before they become problems.
We are always happy to help your company draft rules, policies or manuals, and you can call our office to discuss doing so. However, ensuring consistent enforcement of the rules is up to you.