Why Have an Employee Handbook?
An employee handbook is a necessary and practical way to outline the HR policies and procedures that apply in your workplace.
It communicates necessary HR policies and procedures for employee so they know what is expected of them, and they have a repository of policies and procedures to draw upon whenever they have a question or need assistance. So ask yourself:
- Do you have an Employee Handbook that communicates your HR policies?
- Is your Employee Handbook comprehensive covering all aspects of your company’s HR policies and procedures?
- Is it up-to-date and accurate?
- Do you need to review and update your existing Employee Handbook to bring it up-to-date with workplace changes or current legislation and case law?
Thankfully creating or updating an Employee Handbook has never been easier.
Having An Employee Handbook That Fits Your Culture
You can take a minimalist approach to your employee handbook, so that it fits in with your workplace culture and values, backed up by supporting policies and procedures, or it can be a more extensive document with very detailed HR policies and procedures.
The ‘Employee Handbook’ can be one document or it can comprise a series of HR policies and procedures.
Training and Induction
The handbook can be online or paper-based.
Training can be online training or classroom training.
It is best to induct people to the employee handbook upon them joining your organisation. You can also make new staff aware of where to find additional policies or more detailed policies and procedures at this stage, so that they can know they are there and can find them when they need them during their employment.
A brief induction, essentially letting new starters know about the handbook or the HR policies and procedures, and covering off some key essential starting points is important.
It is essential that all employees have a short training on Respect and Dignity at Work.
Employees must be informed about the employee handbook or the HR policies and procedures of the organisation. Preferably, they will have acknowledged receipt of the handbook. The employer should maintain a record, or have an audit trail, which demonstrates that the employee has been made aware of the employee handbook. This can be an online audit trail or a signed paper form.
In the event of any dispute, what is critically important for the employer is that you can show that the employee received or was informed of a copy (online or paper-based), or of the HR policies and procedures.
You should also be able to demonstrate that the employee received training on Respect and Dignity, and that a sign-off or audit trail exists to demonstrate that the employee was aware of and informed of the HR policies and procedures.
The Employee Handbook and Disputes
The employee handbook will ensure in the event of any type of dispute that there are clear guidelines in place for both the employee and the employer.
For example, critical policies regarding performance would include probation, performance improvement and coaching policies, performance management, the disciplinary and dismissal policy and procedure, as well as grievance and respect and dignity at work.
Robust policies and procedures here are essential.
What Should the Employee Handbook Contain?
As already mentioned above, critical policies regarding performance would include probation, performance improvement, coaching policies, performance management, the disciplinary, dismissal policy, and procedure.
Grievance, and respect and dignity at work policies are essential in the event of issues of this nature.
The respect and dignity at work or the bullying and harassment policy and procedure is critical and should allow for a variety of approaches to resolving issues.
The performance management, performance improvement, probation, and disciplinary policies and procedures should allow for various approaches to supporting high performance without necessarily needing to revert to the disciplinary policy. However, when that is needed, it should be robust and very well aligned with case law and learnings from the outcomes of court cases.
Other policies will include a whole range of leave policies, both statutory leave and other leave, which may be provided by the employer. Thus, policies should exist on annual leave, maternity/adoptive leave, paternity leave, parental leave, carers leave, jury leave, as well as bereavement leave, compassionate leave and maybe sabbaticals or career breaks.
Sick leave should be well managed in any organisation, and a sick leave or an attendance management policy needs to exist and be clear as to what happens when someone is sick, who they notify and how, keeping in touch practices, return to work practices, sick leave review practices, occupational health, reasonable accommodation, and so on.
Sick pay should also be clarified. Employers need to ensure there are measures to tackle abuse or suspected abuse of sick pay schemes.
Of note here, is that sick pay, if it exists, should not be included in the contract of employment. It should be in a policy document only, as policy documents can be changed. Contracts cannot be changed without the agreement of the employee.
Social media policies are essential. They should cover the use of blogs, Facebook, twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, snapchat, etc. The policy should be written in such a way, that all today’s platforms and the platforms of the future, which don’t even exist, yet, are covered without having to continuously update your policy document.
Policies regarding the use of your IT systems, work email, personal email, and the internet at work are all essential. The employer must state that use will be monitored and also take into consideration data protection.
Other policies, which are advisable, include the use of company phones, company and personal mobile phones, company cars or vehicles, and personal cars.
The use of CCTV for some businesses is critical for security, stock management, personnel safety, etc. If the CCTV is going to be used in the event of investigations into missing stock/products, theft, security or safety breaches, non-compliance or breaches of procedures, staff security or safety, or other matters, it is essential to have a CCTV policy that allows for its use in investigations or disciplinary proceedings.
With the new GDPR regulations and increasing regulations regarding data protection, it is essential to have policies in this area.
Other policies include drugs and alcohol, and testing for intoxicants, the right to search, including the right to search company laptops/computers/devices and phones, as well as searches of lockers, desks, cars on company premises, etc.
A dress code or uniform policy may need to be communicated clearly in a policy document.
Travel and expenses policies and company credit card/debit card policies etc. may be important to have. While several companies now advise their staff to use “good judgement”, it is still best to have some written policy. In the event of an issue of theft, for example, a person using the company credit card to buy personal items e.g. shoes, trips abroad, an overnight stay, or say to take cash out of the ATM, the employee can allege that he/she did not know. While this is mostly incredulous and most likely will not ‘cut the mustard’ at the company, it may be a sufficient defence in the courts, in the absence of a specific policy.
A policy regarding use of company product and the removal of company product from the company’s premises is essential.
A useful set policies to have is also for those leaving an organisation e.g. retirement, with retirement age being covered in the contract of employment, exit interviews, and references. It may be useful to have a redundancy policy but that depends very much on the company and the needs.