Policies and Procedures Manual

Policies and Procedures Manual

A workplace policies and procedures manual outlines a business's policies and the procedures that the business uses to follow those policies.

Creating a manual for your business can seem quite overwhelming and, unfortunately, far too many businesses operate with very few policies and procedures in place; some businesses may have no policies and procedures at all.  It can also be overwhelming to think of how any policies and procedures will work together, which ones are necessary, how should the manual be updated, how should the manual be formatted, whether employee acknowledgements are required, and what the legal requirements are regarding all of this.

Why Have a Policies and Procedures Manual?

Technically, there’s no requirement to present any employee with a policies and procedures manual, but there are a few good reasons to do it:

  • it’s a good way to welcome a new employee to your organization and set up expectations;
  • the centralized document helps employers ensure that their employees receive copies of all relevant policies and it helps employees access answers to common questions; and

  • from a legal perspective, the manual and signed acknowledgements may help an employer to defend against a legal claim dealing with employee discipline, termination, benefits, due diligence regarding various obligations, etc.

Creating a Policies and Procedures Manual from Scratch

When drafting a policies and procedure manual, the first thing you must do is decide which policies and procedures to include.  Some policies are required (or at least highly recommended) while others are optional, and their inclusion depends of the nature of the workplace.

The next component is to determine whether the polices and procedures will be enforceable when they’re introduced into the workplace.  When considering their enforceability, the policies and procedures are categorized into two types: (i) subjects which are fundamental to the employment contract and (ii) subjects which are within management’s rights to direct the operation of the workplace.

When it comes to the former type, these must be agreed to by the employees in exchange for proper consideration.  This may happen at the beginning of employment if the policies and procedures are referenced in the employment contract and are provided to the employee before the employee accepts the employment; if not, these policies and procedures cannot be unilaterally imposed upon the employee (and in the vast majority of cases, it won’t work to require the employee to acknowledge the policies and procedures in a manual).

When it comes to the latter type, they can be enforced so long as they’re brought to the employee’s attention, they’re consistently enforced, and they’re reasonable.

Creating a Policies and Procedures Manual from Existing Polices and Procedures

When creating a policies and procedures manual from existing policies and procedures, it’s wise to conduct an audit to ensure the existing polices and procedures are up to date and consistent; that is, they comply with the current law, they are current with respect to the employer’s business practices, and they are internally consistent and don’t contradict each other.

Policies and Procedures Manual Must Comply With Workplace Legislation

When drafting a policies and procedures manual, it must be drafted in such a way as to comply with all workplace laws, including minimum standards, human rights, pay equity, privacy, and occupational health and safety.

Implementing the Policies and Procedures Manual

When the manual is first drafted, at the time new employees are hired, and each time the manual is updated, the policies and procedures manual should be made available electronically or in hard copy.  Employees should always have access to the policies and procedures manual.


In certain situations, where employees have disabilities or where there are other issues preventing an employee from accessing or properly understanding the policies and procedures manual, human rights and accessibility laws requires employers to accommodate such employees.

Employees’ Acknowledgements

The policies and procedures manual should include an acknowledgement of receipt, review, and understanding where the employee acknowledges that she or he has read and understood the policies and procedures manual.

If the employee only acknowledges receipt of the manual, it can lead to legal complications down the road.[1]  If the employee acknowledges that she or he has read, understood, and accepted the terms outlined in the policies and procedures manual, it’s more likely to be accepted as a fact, even if the employee never actually read the policies and procedures.[2]

Employee Training

Training an employee is critical, particularly to ensure that the employee understands the employer’s workplace rules and his or her individual rights and obligations.  Obviously, evidence of training can also help support a management-related decision to discipline the employee for a violation of a policy, it can support an employer’s due diligence defence, and it can minimize the employer’s liability under a human rights law.

There are other aspects of training that must be considered, including the language(s) used, the timing of when training should be conducted, whether periodic training is required at various intervals of time, and the important highlights that training should identify.  Failing to conduct training on the policies and procedures, or a particularly important policy, can unequivocally undermine its enforcement, even in situations where the employee has received the policy and been instructed to read it.[3]

Maintaining the Policies and Procedures Manual

The policies and procedures manual should always be regularly maintained to ensure that the policies are current and lawful.  It should at least be reviewed and revised as follows:

  • when required by law (i.e. an annual review is usually required for policies that deal with occupational health and safety, workplace violence and harassment, etc.);
  • when there is a change in the law (i.e. the 2018 legalization of the recreational use of cannabis caused employers to update their policy regarding drug and alcohol use in the workplace);
  • when there’s a change to the employer’s policies and procedures (i.e. an employer may decide to restrict or prohibit access to certain internet sites during work), or if the employer conducts business in a new jurisdiction (i.e. some policies and procedures may be mandated in the new jurisdiction and thus incorporated into the policies and procedures manual).

To ensure clarity, the revised policies and procedures manual should stipulate that it supersedes any prior versions of the manual.  The revised policies and procedures manual should be redistributed, acknowledgement forms should be reissued, and signed forms collected.  Copies of the older versions of the policies and procedures manual should be retained.

How We Can Help

We can work with you and your business in various capacities.  We can draft a policies and procedures manual from scratch, we can draft a specific policy or procedure, we can create a policies and procedures manual based on your existing policies, or we can audit your existing policies and procedures to ensure currency, legal compliance, and internal consistency.  Contact us or use the Intake Form below to get started!

[1] Bryde v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., 2002 CarswellBC 979 (B.C. S.C.), at paragraphs 41 and 42.

[2] Poliquin v. Devon Canada Corp. 2009 CarswellAlta 903 (Alta. C.A.), at paragraph 16.

[3] Shakur v. Mitchell Plastics, 2012 CarswellOnt 2091 (Ont. S.C.J.), at paragraph 18.


Service Business

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