In the good old days business was done on a handshake and the given word. At the present, that method is no longer feasible. You need to have various policies in writing to make them legally binding for your employees or customers. After all, even the Romans, more than 2,000 years ago, had a saying stating that “words fly, the writing remains”.
Written policies are, first and foremost, the best defenses that your company can have against various claims and lawsuits. Imagine that there were no written rules about money back guarantees on online stores or no internal regulations at your old job. Chaos and mayhem would ensue, with everyone feeling entitled to sue or disobey verbal orders because “it isn’t written anywhere”.
As a small business owner, you need peace of mind and the opportunity to build your reputation, without the faintest sign of legal trouble attached to your business name. Therefore, you need to have the following policies in writing and to make them known to your employees or customers (as applicable):
1. Returns/Refund Policy
While you are striving to provide the best products or services to your customers, there will always be unhappy customers who will demand their money back. It is important to have a clear returns/refund policy in place in case a situation escalates and an angry customer threatens to take you to court.
It is important to follow federal and state laws concerning product returns and cancellations of subscriptions. But you should know your rights as a business and seller, and make sure you are not taken to the cleaners by an unreasonable client. This is where the written policy becomes your best friend – it is the written proof that the customer knew and agreed with your terms and conditions of doing business.
2. Employee Code of Conduct Policy
When you hire employees, whatever they say and do in relation to customers or authorities will reflect back on your business. This means that you need to lay down rules concerning how they dress, speak and act as representatives of your company, how far they are authorized to make promises or assertions concerning your business, etc.
A single employee with a bad attitude towards customers can ruin your business. A dishonest one, who uses your business for perpetrating illegal activities, will drag you and your business in long and damaging legal actions.
3. Workplace Health and Safety Policy
Accidents at work happen very frequently and most of the time they result in lawsuits against the employer to cover hospital bills and loss of income. Usually, insurances step in to pay up, but any insurance company requires businesses to have their workplace health and safety policy in a written format and known by all employees.
As improbable as it seems, every little do and don’t must be in writing, otherwise an employee may claim they had no idea they were not supposed to handle live electrical cables or anything similar.
4. Late Payment Policy
Some businesses issue invoices for their products or services, which are due within one month, in most cases. But what happens if your clients fail to pay their invoices on time? Surely, you are entitled to delay penalties. However, you cannot legally add a single cent to the payable amount unless you have a clear policy in place.
The customer must know at the moment of purchasing your products or engaging your services exactly how much you will charge for late payments. Proceeding with an order or signing the service agreement implies their acceptance of your late payment policy, as well.
5. Equal Opportunity Policy
Discrimination is ugly and illegal, and we are sure that you are certainly not going to discriminate any potential employee. But you should also have this policy in writing. We live in times when people may get the wrong idea quickly, feel disadvantaged and, yes, threaten to sue you.
As a final piece of advice, although you can find many templates of these policies on the internet, you should ask a lawyer to look over them and confirm that they are legal and applicable in your jurisdiction.