What to Include in an Employee Handbook
Employee handbooks are a valuable guide that outline company policies and procedures and support the contract of employment. These policies should reflect the company’s values and culture.
As an employer, there are numerous responsibilities. Some are required under UK employment law, and some are optional.
Introduction & Business Goals
An overview of the history of the company, its vision, mission and values; including a comprehensive outline of what your business hopes to achieve, including what you intend to accomplish, how you can get there and the roles of everyone involved. They should detail financial and production details, but how the entire company can work together in a fair, just, safe, moral and ethical environment for all.
An outline of how probationary periods are managed within the company.
Work Conditions and Hours
All employees have the right to work in safe and suitable conditions for an appropriate amount of time. Therefore, where employees work outside their regular hours, you could pay over time. However, this is not a legal requirement, although total pay for average hours must not fall below the national minimum wage.
Because you pay employees for their time and service, they are expected to perform that service to their best ability at all times, including time-keeping, reasonable health and hygiene and respect for others. As an employer, you have the right to terminate the contract of any employee who is in breach of contract pertaining to their performance while at work.
General Employment Policies, Procedures and Practices
Your company must adhere to specific laws and regulations and include a detailed explanation of rules, disciplinary proceedings, absence policies and compensation.
Employers are required by law under the Equality Act of 2010 to protect the rights of all staff. This includes employers and employees. Therefore, you cannot discriminate based on race, sexual orientation, religion, gender, disabilities or age.
The Equality Act of 2010 also prohibits acts of harassment towards all employees either by the company, management or co-workers. Unlawful acts deemed as harassment include bullying, intimidation and offensive behaviour or language.
It may not always be appropriate to terminate a contract based on poor performance. Disciplinary action may be more suitable for minor infractions. Your disciplinary policy must clearly state what types of behaviour may lead to disciplinary action. It is important to include what steps are included in the process and action that may be taken.
It is important to provide employees with a way to raise issues in regards to their working environment or working relationships. Your policy should clearly state how to raise a grievance and the ways in which this will be dealt with by the company.
Health & Safety Policy
It will help if you communicate your company’s policies on any health & safety issues in addition to adherence with the Health & Safety at Work Act of 1974 and the Health & Safety at Work Regulations of 1999.
Employee Benefits Policy
Employee benefits are not required under UK law. However, should you wish to offer help, they should be clearly defined. Typical employee benefits include additional sick pay, death assistance payments, employee discounts, dental plans, eye care and gym passes.
Leave and time off
Under UK regulations, employees are entitled to up to 5.6 weeks of paid holidays. In addition, you might want to provide provision for additional time off. Some other types of leave are required by law, and others are not. You need to provide clear information as to how each of the types of leave is processed and include pay entitlements for these periods. Types of leave include:
- Annual Leave
- Sickness Absence
- Dentist / Doctor Appointments
- Bereavement & Compassionate Leave
- Family Friendly Leave – Maternity, Paternity, Adoption, Shared parental leave, Ordinary parental Leave, Time off for dependants and The right to flexible working.
Business Policies and Procedures
Some policies relate directly to your company, that if broken, could compromise the integrity therein. Therefore, it is vital that anything that could expose your company to outside interference or reveal private data be expressly detailed and agreed upon. An example of the types of policies that may be necessary are below.
Depending on your business, it may be necessary to control the flow of communicative information in and out of your company. Your communication policy should include public speaking, press releases and how to classify confidential information. Such information includes personal and private data, company procedures and records.
For highly sensitive information or to protect the company’s integrity, policies, employees and assets, you should consider non-disclosure agreements. An NDA is a legally binding agreement that prohibits signing parties from speaking or writing about specific information stated in the contract.
Almost every company relies on IT infrastructure. Infrastructure such as networked computers with connections to intranets and the internet. Cybersecurity is a significant issue today, and misuse of IT systems leaves a company open for intrusion. You should clearly define the IT policy based on the proper use of computers and networks. This includes using encrypted removable storage, email and downloading policies, password & username policies and GDPR/data usage.
Social Media Policy
A social media policy is used to govern the use of this media within the Company. It should clearly set out how social media is managed within the company and the roles and expectations of employees.
Where possible it is advisable that the company policies and handbook are non-contractual, therefore allowing you to make additions and changes to it as necessary.
If you need HR support from a company that understands the needs of your business, contact us today. At Harwood HR we can support your business, help you to grow and promote your employees’ talents. Our UK-based team offers a range of HR support services and advice for SME businesses, including outsourced HR support.