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Enforcing Company Policies: Why It’s Important & How To Enforce Them

  • Human Resources
  • Article
  • 6 min. Read
  • Last Updated: 10/31/2023

employees following a company policy dress code

Table of Contents

An employee handbook may include common workplace policies like a business's office hours, details regarding earning and using paid time off, acceptable attire, and standards on technology use. But, as many employers eventually realize, the mere presence of a policy does not mean employees will follow it.

Here's a closer look at common work policies that are often ignored and some best practices from Paychex HR professionals on how you can approach enforcing policies in the workplace.

Why Are Policies Important in the Workplace, and Why Must They Be Enforced?

Rules and policies are an integral part of any organization, as they establish expectations for employee behavior and provide a framework for decision-making at all levels. Clear and consistent rules can prevent chaos and confusion while promoting a productive and safe work environment. When managers enforce these rules, it creates a culture of accountability and empowers employees to take responsibility for their actions. This can help reduce inappropriate behavior and increase the likelihood of everyone being treated fairly and consistently.

Since many company policies are based on federal laws and regulations, enforcing workforce policies helps ensure that everyone stays in compliance with any legal and ethical boundaries. This can protect the company from legal risks and damage to its reputation, but it can also help create a positive workplace culture by fostering mutual respect and trust. Ultimately, policy enforcement may also promote productivity by ensuring everyone is on the same page and working towards common goals without distractions or disruptions caused by inappropriate behavior.

Commonly Ignored Workplace Policies

Companies need to have policies in place that create a safe and productive work environment. Unfortunately, employees may sometimes ignore or violate these policies, which can lead to negative consequences for both the employee and the company. Here are some of the most ignored workplace policies:

  • Punctuality regarding time and attendance (to prevent excessive employee absenteeism)
  • Internet and social media usage
  • Dress code and personal appearance
  • Non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality
  • Travel and expense reporting
  • Safety procedures and protocols
  • Use of company equipment and resources

Identifying the most commonly ignored policies can help employers and managers proactively address issues. By knowing which rules are most frequently broken, employers can work to raise awareness around overlooked policies or add more documentation for policies that may not have clear guidelines in place.

How To Enforce Rules in the Workplace

Enforcing workforce policies is essential to creating a safe and productive work environment. Managers and HR professionals are critical in ensuring policies are upheld and employees are held accountable. The approach to enforcing company policies may vary depending on the specifics of the policy and the workplace culture, but here are some general strategies that can help managers determine how to enforce rules at work.

1. Have Policies Documented

A critical aspect of enforcing company policies and procedures is ensuring all employees know the policies and the consequences of violating them. This can be accomplished through training sessions, employee handbooks, and regular communication from managers and HR professionals. In addition, managers and HR professionals should lead by example and consistently follow policies themselves, which can help reinforce the importance of compliance with company policies.

2. Set Clear Expectations Upfront

Having clearly defined and communicated expectations is the cornerstone of effective rule enforcement. Ensuring your employees are aligned on expectations from the beginning makes it easier to hold everyone accountable to the same set of standards and expectations. This can include everything from dress code or attendance policies to more complex issues, such as workplace harassment. These guidelines should be outlined in your company's employee handbook and discussed upfront as part of the employee orientation or onboarding process.

3. Enforce Policies Equally Among All Members of the Business

Ultimately, enforcing policies is the responsibility of everyone within an organization. Managers and HR professionals play a critical role in setting the tone and ensuring that policies are consistently upheld, but employees at all levels must take responsibility for following policies and holding their colleagues accountable. Holding upper managers to the same standards as those at lower levels also helps to set the expectation that workplace policies apply equally to everyone and will be enforced. By working together and emphasizing the importance of company policy, organizations can create a more productive and respectful workplace culture.

4. Outline Potential Disciplinary Outcomes

When it comes to enforcement, managers and HR professionals must have clear guidelines and procedures in place on how non-compliance will be handled. This can include steps such as verbal warnings, written warnings, suspension, and termination, depending on the severity of the violation. It's also important that enforcement is consistent and fair across all employees, regardless of their position or relationship with management.

5. Utilize Technology

Utilizing technology can be an effective strategy for enforcing workplace policies and helping ensure compliance. For instance, HR information systems can be used to distribute and track acknowledgment of company policies, ensuring that every employee has had an opportunity to read and understand the rules. Employee training platforms can deliver online training sessions about important policies and regulations, making it easier for employees to learn and absorb the information at their own pace.

In addition, monitoring tools can help enforce policies related to internet usage, data security, and other technology-related areas. These tools can provide alerts when a potential violation occurs, allowing for quick action. Moreover, software solutions can automate aspects of compliance with company policies and procedures, such as time-tracking or expense reporting, reducing the chance of human error and making it easier for employees to stay compliant. By leveraging technology, companies can make policy enforcement more efficient, consistent, and accessible, leading to a more compliant and productive workplace.

6. Consult With HR Professionals

Building a strategy for enforcing company policies is an important task that requires expert knowledge and experience. While business owners, managers, and HR professionals may deeply understand their company's needs and culture, they may not be fully versed in the latest HR best practices, employment law, or innovative technologies that can aid in company policy enforcement. This is where consulting with outside HR consultants becomes valuable. These experts can provide a fresh perspective and specialized knowledge that can help refine and optimize a company's policy enforcement strategy.

The HR professionals at Paychex, for instance, have extensive experience in helping businesses of all sizes manage their HR needs. They can provide guidance on policy development, offer insights into effective enforcement strategies, and even assist with implementing technology solutions for policy compliance. By leveraging the expertise of outside HR consultants like those at Paychex, companies can take a comprehensive and informed approach to policy enforcement that may lead to greater compliance, reduced risk, and a healthier workplace environment.

7. Explain Why Policies Exist

Employees are more likely to comply when they understand the "why" behind the workplace rules. Remind employees that procedures around working hours, for example, exist because staff members play an important role in the success of a business.

“Ensure employees and managers understand why a rule or policy exists and the impact that compliance with that rule or policy has on the business,” says Paychex HR consultant Teresa Kallman, SPHR. “Employees are more likely to buy into following the rules when they understand why it’s important, and how it benefits them. Explaining to an employee why being on time for work is important, and the impact they have on the business when they are late can demonstrate the link between their behavior and business results.”

Employees may be more likely to embrace rules when they understand their purpose and that they are not meant to be a form of control or punishment.

8. Be Consistent

Consistency helps to ensure that all employees are held accountable for their actions and that policies are applied in a fair and unbiased manner. Inconsistent enforcement of company policies can lead to confusion, resentment, and a breakdown of trust between employees and management. It can also create an environment where some employees feel that they are exempt from certain policies, which can exacerbate existing non-compliance issues.

When a policy is enforced consistently, this also helps to mitigate exposure to discrimination claims. When policies are applied to one employee but bent for another or referenced only in specific situations, it demonstrates a bias on the employer's part. “Accountability is key in ensuring policies are applied consistently. Managers must hold employees accountable for following policies, and themselves accountable for ensuring they apply policies fairly, and consistently,” says Kallman.

To ensure consistency at all levels of the organization, owners and senior management should consider training supervisors and managers in their ability to enforce company policies consistently.

Compliance With Company Policies and Procedures Is Key to Success

In today's workplaces, businesses must have clearly defined policies governing the behaviors of their employees while at work. However, enforcing these policies can be challenging at times. To ensure compliance with workplace policies, it is essential to have a well-documented strategy for policy enforcement. This includes making all the policies easily accessible to employees and helping them to understand why compliance is important.

The HR professionals at Paychex can provide a comprehensive range of HR solutions to help companies craft policies that are in compliance with applicable laws, educate employees on policies and consequences for non-compliance, and review enforcement strategies to identify when updates are needed. These efforts can lay the groundwork for a happier, more productive workforce.


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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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