Think of a company policy as part of your organizational rulebook—it dictates your expectations for how employees should behave in the workplace. Some policies, like health and safety and medical leave policies, are legally mandated. Others, like no call no show policies, can be unique to your business.
But these policies aren’t always constant. Changes to the workplace, culture, and society at large can result in necessary modifications to your existing policies—or the addition of new ones entirely. And, when that happens, you need to let your employees know about the updates and changes.
But why is it so important to notify your employees of policy changes? When is the right time to let them know a policy is changing? And how can you notify them in a way that ensures they not only understand the change to your policy, but comply with it?
We’ll answer all that and more, so keep reading!
Why is Notifying Employees of Policy Changes Important?
Notifying employees of policy changes is important because it makes them aware of the new expectations and guidelines. And it helps team members accept and comply with them.
Here are the top benefits of notifying your team about policy changes:
- Helps keep things fair: Notifying your employees of changes to policies can help you and your managers remain consistent in enforcing rules. This can reduce misunderstandings or accusations of unfair treatment—which could potentially lead to a lawsuit or employee discontent.
- Better adoption of the new policy: Employees can’t follow your new policy if they don’t know what that policy is. Notifying employees of changes to corporate policies ensures they know what, exactly, is changing—which makes it easier for them to adopt and embrace those changes.
- Improved employee morale: Neglecting to provide notice of changes to your policies can also lead to issues with your business that can cause morale to drop, like employees unknowingly following older guidelines—and then getting frustrated when they’re disciplined or called out for non-compliance, since they weren’t aware of the policy change to begin with. Notifying employees of changes ensures everyone is on the same page, which can help you avoid any potential morale issues.
- Documents changes: This type of notification shows you let team members know about these changes, when they'd take effect, and how they would be enforced. That gives you strong ground to stand on if you ever need to take disciplinary action against an employee who isn't following the new policies.
Can a Company Change a Policy without Notice?
The short answer is yes, a business isn’t required to notify employees of policy changes, though that can vary based on your specific state’s employment laws.
But, required or not, you still should.
Providing advance notice of any changes to existing policies is a good HR practice, particularly for policies that have a direct impact on employees—like, for example, paid time off (PTO), as changes to that policy could change how employees accrue and use sick time and vacation days.
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How to Inform Employees of Policy Changes
How you notify employees of changes to your company’s policies depends on your workplace and how you normally communicate with your workers.
Some ways to loop your employees in on policy changes include:
- Update the handbook and require employee sign-off: Your employee handbook serves as a quick reference for company policies and procedures—and is an especially important reference for new employees undergoing onboarding. When you add or update a policy, make sure the changes are reflected in the handbook.
- Send an email or letter: You can email or distribute a notification letter that highlights new expectations and your reasoning for the changes. (Out of the two methods, email is recommended; that way, you have proof it was distributed to all employees.) This can help answer potential questions while offering insight into the thought processes of you and your human resources management team.
- Post signs and physical updates: Print out a physical notice and post it in areas of high employee traffic, such as the break room or at the time clock. Outline any new policies or changes and provide resources to learn more, like a suggestion to meet with human resources or directions to obtain a copy of the latest policy.
- Schedule in-person meetings: Call an all-hands meeting or assign managers to meet with their teams to discuss the policy updates and field questions about the changes. This lets your employees establish a dialogue and offer feedback and suggestions.
- Update employees through a messaging app: If your company uses a platform like Slack, share policy updates in the appropriate channels. Provide resources for employees to follow up with questions, as well as the opportunity to meet with you or HR.
What’s the Best Way to Notify Employees?
It’s best to use multiple different channels to update your team members about changes so no one slips through the cracks. Otherwise, an employee might miss the policy change and (unknowingly) fail to comply with it—which could lead to them being unfairly disciplined by a manager or supervisor.
Schedule an all-hands meeting. During the meeting, verbally roll out your modified policy. Review exactly what’s changing, how it will impact your employees, and any new expectations related to the change. Leave time during the meeting for Q+A—and make sure to answer any questions and resolve any concerns your staff might have to reduce confusion and avoid potentially upsetting employees.
During the meeting, distribute physical copies of the policy and require each employee to sign off on receiving and agreeing to it. Then, follow up with an email reviewing the changes and reiterating that if employees have any issues, questions, or concerns, they should reach out to management to schedule time to talk one-on-one.
And if your workforce is remote? Use email, text messages, or a chat platform to provide your employees with the opportunity to schedule one-on-one meetings with you or HR to discuss concerns and go over the changes.
Tips for Notifying Employees of Policy Changes
Now that you understand the importance of notifying employees of changes to policies, let’s jump into what that looks like in practice.
Be Clear and Transparent
Change can be difficult to accept, especially if it impacts an employee’s benefits, income, or working hours—which is why clarity and transparency are so important. This includes:
- Explaining what’s changing (and how it will impact the team)
- Explaining why you’re making any changes
- Sharing information about what led to these changes (like time card fraud or workplace harassment)
- Outlining specific changes to the policy or new rules and guidelines going forward
- Discussing why these changes are necessary for your small business
- Detailing what steps employees need to take to comply with the changes in policy
Use an Appropriate Tone
Sharing changes to a policy requires some degree of formality, but that doesn’t mean you need to switch to legal language or HR jargon to get your points across. That kind of language can cause confusion—and can ultimately cause your latest policy change to fall flat.
It’s helpful to share this information in the same tone of voice you would normally use when sharing news about your company with your employees. If the changes are good—like the addition of flexible time off—it’s okay to be celebratory. On the other hand, if the policy was changed based on something concerning—like excessive absenteeism—it’s okay to take a sterner tone.
Explain the Benefits of the New Policy
Changes in policies benefit your company, your employees, or both. (Otherwise, why make a change?) But if you want the change to be embraced, you need to showcase those benefits to your team.
Detailing a policy’s benefits can help your employees understand the “whys” behind the change—which, in turn, can make them more likely to embrace it.
For example, explain that cutting travel expenses means you won’t need to look to reduce costs elsewhere—and can maintain your current benefits package.
…and Outline the Consequences of Not Following It
It can be difficult to enforce a change in policy if your employees aren’t aware of the potential consequences of not following it.
That’s why, when you first introduce a new or updated policy, it’s important to detail what happens if employees don’t follow the new set of rules. That could include disciplinary actions, like a write-up or being sent home early—or, in the case of severe and/or repeat policy violations, termination.
Keep in mind that certain policy changes can (and should!) require a grace period before they’re fully enforced. So, for example, you shouldn’t necessarily discipline an employee for not following a new policy two days after it goes into effect.
After all, some people are creatures of habit and might need some time to adjust to new changes—particularly if they’re long-term employees.
Offer an Apology (When Necessary)
When a change in policy doesn’t directly or specifically benefit your employees, an apology can go a long way toward reiterating the value of your workforce. If you cut some employee perks or institute stricter rules, share a sincere apology for any inconvenience. An apology doesn’t mean you’ll revert any changes, but it can show that you empathize with your employees.
Ask for Feedback
Changes to corporate policy will directly impact your employees—and, chances are, they’re going to have thoughts and opinions about that impact. And if you want your policy changes to be embraced by your team, it’s important to listen to those thoughts and opinions—and act on them whenever possible.
In your letter, offer a way for employees to provide feedback. For example, you can send out an anonymous survey asking for feedback or encourage your staff to set up meetings with human resources or management to voice their concerns or ask questions. Then (and this is the important part!), use that feedback to improve your policies.
Asking for feedback is a win-win—as a business owner, it gives you insights into how you can make your policies better. And for employees, it gives them a voice, ensuring they feel heard and acknowledged by their company, which can help improve engagement.
Require Proof of Receipt/Acknowledgment
No matter how you share your policy updates, require your employees to sign off (either a physical or digital signature works!) that they both received and understand the new policy. (For policies sent via snail mail, use certified mail to retain proof of receipt.)
Once you’ve collected signatures, make sure to keep them on file. That way, if there’s ever a future issue or dispute, you have proof that your employee signed off on the change in policy.
Update Your Employee Handbook
Your employee handbook includes, among other information, your company policies and guidelines. It’s an effective reference for new and old employees alike—but only as long as you keep it accurate and up-to-date, including after you change or add a new policy.
However, employee handbooks and policies can sometimes be considered “implied contracts.” This means courts could interpret your policies as legally binding, making it difficult to defend against claims of unfair dismissal and other litigation.
To avoid this potential scenario, use language that specifies that any policy you introduce isn’t a contract and that your small business reserves the right to make changes at any time—and without notice.
Policy Change Sample Letter and Template
No matter how you change your policies, sending an effective policy change letter—ideally on company letterhead—that outlines new procedures, explains your reasoning, and answers questions is a good practice. It can clear up any confusion, which helps team members feel more at ease.
Not sure what to include in your letter outlining changes in policy? Use this sample letter and template (or, if you’re sending digitally, sample email format) as a jumping-off point. Just click "Make a copy" to customize your own.
Or copy and paste the content below!
123 Paper Street
New York City, NY 10001
956 Smith Ave.
Seattle, WA 98101
Subject: Policy Change Notification
It has come to our attention that some employees have been posting on social media in a way that makes it appear as if they are official representatives of ABC Inc.
Though these employees have made no claims about representing the company in an official capacity, the inclusion of company logos on uniforms and in the background of their social media posts has led to some confusion amongst our clients.
To avoid this confusion and potential for misrepresentation, we are updating our company’s social media policy, effective 4/1/23.
Under the new policy, employees will need to secure approval from the human resources department before posting any photo or video where the company’s name, logo, or products are visible.
Failure to abide by this new policy will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.
We hope that everyone will comply with these changes. Please contact Ralph in HR if you have any questions or need additional clarification.
CEO, ABC Inc.
Here's a template to jump-start your policy change notice to team members! Just click "Make a copy" to start editing your own.
Or copy and paste the content below!
[City, State, Zip]
[City, State, Zip]
Subject: [New Policy]/[Policy Change Notification]
Dear [Employee Name],
We would like to inform you about some recent changes to our company policies.
We would like to introduce a new policy that will take effect on [date the policy comes into force]. The changes include [OR] According to the new policy,
[Provide a concise summary of the latest policy details.]
We hope that everyone will comply with the changes and help make the new system a success. We apologize for any inconvenience and welcome you to contact [contact information for management or HR] if you have any questions.
Thank you for your support.
Don’t Leave Your Employees in the Dark About Important Policy Changes
Your company policies lay out your expectations for how employees act, behave, and function in your workplace.
But for these policies to be effective, your employees need to know if and when they change.
Notifying employees of policy changes ensures that everyone is on the same page—and it’s important to reach out through a variety of channels (like sending an email and letter of policy change, posting in the break room, and updating your employee handbook with your updated policy).
And now that you know how to effectively notify your employees of any changes to your existing policies, you have everything you need to roll out those changes as smoothly as possible.