For the MD, an employee handbook formalises processes and procedures over the course of an employment relationship. It covers procedures for dealing with illness, absence, handling employee grievances and how to discipline someone. Whereas there are some legal requirements, the main purpose of the handbook is to codify how you the MD want to run the business in a consistent way. Employees then know what the rules are. It also gives you some standards to manage against. This becomes more important as your business grows and line management is delegated to others.
What should I include in a handbook?
Legally, employees need to have access to a grievance and disciplinary procedure. This could usefully be included in a handbook rather than giving copies on joining. It always seems to be strange that an employer would give these documents to a new starter as I wonder what message that gives out! In addition, I would recommend that you also have policies to cover:
- Leave and flexible working
- Absence management
- IT and communications
Each of these are underpinned to a greater or lesser extent by the law, yet these policies give you the opportunity to say what additional holiday you want to give above the statutory minimum (if any), or how long you will pay people whilst off sick before statutory sick pay kicks in or the rules you want to put in place regarding downloading software, use of the Internet or social media. Making it up as you go along can lead to discrimination claims. Thinking through what you want in a measured way is time well invested. At a practical level, as your business grows, it is easier to change policies in a handbook than it is to change someone’s contract of employment.
Beyond the basics, you might want to consider policies that cover behaviour in the workplace (such as timekeeping, acceptable clothing), anti-bribery procedures (particularly when dealing with foreign cultures or where high-value contracts are tendered for) or how time off in lieu is to be managed.
Much depends on the nature of your business – whether you are in manufacturing or a service industry, or whether you operate internationally and employees may come across different ways of doing business. The content of the handbook also represents the personality of the MD. Some MDs are more relaxed; others want every rule spelled out.
Having a handbook still allows for management discretion, but avoids any accusation of bias because it provides a framework for a consistent approach given that each situation might be different. Typically staff feel more secure knowing what the rules are, and that they will be applied fairly – critical in the more fraught situations.
To discuss what products are available regarding staff handbooks, or to discuss any other employment matter, contact Stephen by email (Stephen.Cowburn@hcba.co.uk) or on 07974 425 361.
Posted by Stephen Cowburn – for a confidential discussion on this and other employment related matters call Stephen on 07974 425361 or email firstname.lastname@example.org