The Employee Handbook is a written collection and summary of an employer’s policies, procedures and practices.
They make a great addition to any employer’s HR systems, but become particularly useful when you have 5 or more employees.
Handbooks are designed to answer an employee’s questions; therefore are often best written in the ‘first’ person. Having a handbook will avoid a lot of time being wasted, it avoids inconsistencies in the way people are treated and reduces the employer’s stress.
They can be used to inform an employee about performance and conduct expectations and provide the employer with good evidence that someone has been made aware of that certain behaviours could lead to disciplinary action or even dismissal.
By demonstrating that the Employee Handbook has been designed and issued to all employees, employers can evidence their ‘reasonable behaviour’ towards those they employ.
Employee Handbooks should be made accessible to all employees. They can be printed and issued as individual copies, emailed to employees or saved to shared files. An alternative that some very small employers use is to print and place into folders, two copies, one for the staff room and one for the Manager’s office. Then anyone can access the Employee Handbook at any time without having to ask to see it. Some of the content i.e. maternity benefits the employee should be able to review without asking to see the Company’s policy on maternity.
Every Employee Handbook should reflect the employer it has been written for, but there will be common areas included in an Employee Handbook. Templates and ‘off the shelf’ solutions often don’t reflect the industry, culture and way work is organised. They can cause more trouble rather than add value. Seeing lots of Employee Handbooks, we often see handbooks that contain information on:
- Sickness Absence
- Holidays and Leave
- Maternity Benefits
- Paternity, Parental and Flexible Working
- Adoption Benefits
- Company Procedures
- Company Rules i.e. Dress Code, Disposal of Waste etc.
- Equal Opportunities, Whistleblowing, Bullying and Harassment.
- Drugs and Alcohol
- CCTV & Data Protection
- Discipline and Grievances
- No Smoking Policies.
- IT and Computer Policies
- Driving at Work
Incorporation into the Terms and Conditions
The entire Employee Handbook or some sections of it may become part of the employee’s contracts, regardless of whether the employer intended this. Where we say ‘further terms and conditions can be found in the Employee Handbook’, we are incorporating the Employee Handbook into those terms and conditions of employment. This refers to the Handbook in existence when the contract was made, not necessarily future versions of the Handbook.
The Handbook may specify that the policies are non contractual, and therefore discretionary and subject to change. For example the Disciplinary & Grievance Procedure may be non contractual.
If an employer chooses not to have an Employee Handbook there is a risk that employee’s will say they didn’t know, couldn’t have known or haven’t been made aware. This makes an employer very uncomfortable. The real value in the Employee Handbook is the knowledge that it is outlined in the handbook and if the employee or employer needs to refer to it, it will be there in plain English for all to see.
If you would like more information about how an Employee Handbook can add value to your HR systems, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01527 909436 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org