What should be in an Employee Handbook?

All employers want to have a workforce that has high productivity and a low staff turnover.

To achieve this, you need an Employee Handbook, often called a Staff Handbook, which contains workplace rules, standards and procedures.

Some policies are a legal requirement, for example, employers with five or more employees are required to have a Health & Safety Policy in place. 

staff handbooks for employees

Others play a significant role in ensuring that the workplace is a good place to be, that employees understand their rights, and that responsibilities and issues are resolved quickly and efficiently.

Are these policies in your staff handbook?

Sickness

Disciplinary

Grievance

Performance and appraisals

Social media

Whistleblowing

Harassment

Equal opportunities

Dress code

Below is an overview of some key policies that should be included in any small business Employee Handbook in the UK:

Sickness absence

The main aim of a Sickness Absence Policy is to provide a clear framework for reporting, managing and recording sickness absences. It should clearly establish what employees need to do to inform their employer of their absence, trigger points for unacceptable levels of short and frequent sickness absence, and the procedure for dealing with prolonged sickness absence.

Disciplinary

The Disciplinary Policy sets out expected standards of conduct for employees and helps employers to act in a fair and consistent way when dealing with disciplinary issues. It should set out the step-by-step procedure of the disciplinary process, including disciplinary sanctions, examples of gross misconduct and appeals.

Grievance procedure

If an employee is unhappy about something, they should raise this grievance with their line manager. Ensuring that there is a proper procedure for employees to raise concerns means that you can maintain good employment relationships, prevent small issues escalating into big problems and avoid costly claims. Make sure your policy follows the ACAS guidelines, outlines how employees can raise a grievance and lays down the procedure of how you will deal with it.

Performance and appraisals

The aim of this policy is to try and reconcile any sub-standard work issues, give the employee an opportunity to improve, and identify any underlying causes of the poor performance.

Free Download: Definitive Guide to Staff Handbooks and HR policies

Equal opportunities

Your staff handbook should include a statement making it clear that you are committed to ensuring all of your employees and job applicants are protected from unlawful discrimination. You should state that all forms of discrimination based on the protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010 will not be tolerated, and clearly define bullying, harassment and victimisation.

Harassment

Harassment in the workplace must not be tolerated as it can have a damaging effect on victims and others who have witnessed the incident(s) and may impact their health, confidence, morale and performance. Your Employee Handbook should include a policy on harassment, which should clearly explain that it is a disciplinary offence and that victims should raise any incidents through the grievance procedure.

Free Download: Definitive Guide to Staff Handbooks and HR policies

Whistleblowing

The law protects whistleblowers from their employers subjecting them to detriment or dismissing them because they have spoken up if they believe that something is wrong. A Whistleblowing Policy outlines your an internal system for employees to report, investigate and rectify any wrongdoing.

Dress code

You may wish to set a dress code. Dress codes can be introduced because employers want customers to easily identify their staff, either for health and safety reasons or to ensure that their employees fit the company’s corporate image. Although there is significant leeway, you should be mindful of not discriminating against anyone. Employers can set different requirements for men and women, but they cannot treat one gender less favourably and may face claims of unlawful discrimination if they do. There are also potential issues with restricting the wearing of religious clothing. The Government Equalities Office has recently released dress code guidance.

social media policy

Social media

A clear and robust Social Media Policy is essential as an employee’s use of social media can pose risks to the company’s reputation and team relationships. You should clearly set out guidelines on what is and is not permitted both at work and at home and the consequences of any violation of the policy’s provisions. You should make it clear that serious misuses of social media could amount to gross misconduct and result in their dismissal.

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. Other policies typically include health and safety, computer usage, data protection, flexible working, maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave.

Remember…

It is not enough to just have policies in place. They need to be understood and enforced. Employees must be able to easily access the Handbook and understand the policies and managers need to be trained to understand how to apply them consistently and correctly.

Policies need to be frequently reviewed and updated to ensure they are legally up-to-date and fit for purpose. Having a HR expert at hand will ensure that you are legally compliant at all times.

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