Human resource management is responsible for the creation, implementation and interpretation of personnel policy. A policy that is unclear or open to many interpretations can lead to potential discord both internally and externally. It is the duty of HR managers to make certain their policies are clear and enforceable.
An HR policy must be in compliance with a number of state and federal laws. While a company has a degree of autonomy in its decisions, there are certain guidelines it must follow. There are employee protection laws such as child labor laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Examples of safety and health care regulations are the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and Occupational Health and Safety Administration Act (OSHA). Other laws include the Family Leave and Medical Act (FMLA), Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). These laws exist to protect employees. Human resource management must incorporate their mandates when implementing policy.
Personnel policy needs to be clear in three areas: To whom is the policy applicable (all employees, full-time employees, management)? What are the circumstances of its application? What is the potential result of noncompliance? A policy that can be interpreted in different ways leaves a company open to complaints and potential litigation. For example, if an employer terminates a worker for repeated absence, personnel policy must clearly state under which circumstances absence is unacceptable. It must also unmistakably state that repeated absence can be grounds for termination.
Differences will exist based on a number of factors. For example, salaried employees may not have to punch in or out, while hourly employees swipe in and out at a time clock. These differences aside, the policy must be consistent or human resource management runs the risk of unfair practice accusations. For instance, if one group of hourly employees has a one-hour lunch, while another hourly group has a 45-minute lunch, there needs to be a discernible and defensible reason why that is.
A personnel policy is not a tool to exert the will of human resource management. It must be implemented with a direct goal. Typically, this goal is to effectively govern the day-to-day operations of a company. The governance exists to foster a strong working environment that allows employees to efficiently perform their functions. This occurs while maintaining compliance with state and federal laws. If management doubts the effectiveness in their interpretation, they must reassess, revise and re-implement the policy.