Do I need an employee handbook?

Staff have a range of statutory rights and it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure that these rights are understood so it is sensible to centralise these into one document (whether this is a physical or digital document), often called an employee handbook.

Your employees’ responsibilities, duties, and rights are laid out in their employment contract. There will also be a range of policies however, that are specific to your company, which all staff should be familiar with and should have access to with their handbook.

It may be helpful to ask employees to sign a document to confirm that they have received/read a copy of the employee handbook. Therefore, although having an employee handbook isn’t a legal requirement, it is highly advisable to have one.

What might you include in an employee handbook? 

As businesses are so different, no single list will fit all companies. It is also important to think about the policies that you might like to include to protect your own company such as a policy for the use of social media and what employees can publish on social media. However, many policies are likely to be common to all business and include:

  • Health and Safety
  • Working Hours and Conditions
  • Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption
  • Attendance and Leave of Absence
  • Disciplinary Proceedings
  • Anti-Discrimination
  • Performance Management
  • Employee Benefits policy
  • Social Media and IT policy

Employee handbook vs employment contract

It is important to consider what you include in your employee handbook vs. what you include in your employment contracts. Changes to employment contracts will need the agreement of your employees. As policies may change due to legislation, if they need to be updated and are in an employment contract, it would require the employees’ agreement.  For changes to minor policies, this would be an unnecessarily lengthy process.

It may also be wise to leave the non-statutory policies out of contracts as it may protect you from a breach of contract claim if you don’t follow one of your policies. It is important to understand which policies are contractual and which are not so it would be wise to approach an HR specialist with knowledge to guide you on this. Having clear and legally compliant policies will reduce the chance of your employees taking legal action against you.

The advantages of an employee handbook

The advantages of having an employee handbook will mean that staff clearly understand what the expectations are of them from the company. It will promote the understanding and ethos that the company wants to and will treat everyone consistently and fairly. In theory, having a centralised employee handbook should also make running your business easier as there will be no need to consider how to deal with situations – the processes will already be in place.

It is vital that if you do choose to have a handbook, that you refer to it and follow it. Employees will lose faith in management systems if they see that the policies are being ignored. Equally, if you encounter a situation that challenges your policies, don’t be afraid to adapt them and update them to reflect the changing needs of your business or legislation. Do however ensure that the new, updated handbook is distributed to staff and accessible, replacing all previous versions.

Getting support

Do you have an employee handbook? Would you like one? Get in touch to discuss how Altum HR can help you draft a tailored employee handbook for your business bringing all of your policies into one place.

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