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New Year’s Resolution Two; Review Your Staff Handbook

Last week we kicked off the New Year with our first recommended business New Year resolution to get your employment documentation in tip-top shape. If you missed our article on reviewing employment contracts, check it out here.

This week, we move on to staff handbooks. Do you have one in place for your employees? When was it reviewed? Is it up to date? Is it a short handbook containing some general rules or is a lengthier document covering your policies and procedures? Has it been issued to staff and do you have evidence staff have read and understood the contents? Here are our top tips for what a staff handbook should include.

  • Have a general rules section at the outset. This can cover minor rules that don’t require a detailed policy. For example, you could have general rules on having personal items delivered to work, personal appointments, references and statements to the media to name but a few.
  • Know which policies you are legally required to have. A disciplinary procedure and a grievance procedure are a must. If you have 5 or more employees, you must also have a health and safety policy.
  • A whistleblowing policy may be legally required in some cases. Government bodies, UK listed companies and US public companies and their subsidiaries must have a whistleblowing policy in place. It is however a highly recommended for all businesses to have such a policy in place, for the same reasons set out at point 4 below.
  • There are a number of other policies we would highly recommend including in your staff handbook. Anti-bribery, equal opportunities and data protection policies may well assist companies in meeting other legal obligation or may help when defending civil or criminal claims.
  • Common policies we would recommend, which help outline your rules relating to day to day working arrangements, include sickness absence, expenses, IT and communications and social media. Having these policies in place will ensure your employees understand what they should and shouldn’t do. Social media, in particular, is a constant hot topic so make sure your staff know what behaviour you will not condone on social media.
  • Leave entitlements, such as maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, parental leave and compassionate leave are not legally required policies and, in the absence of having these, your employees’ leave entitlements will revert to the statutory position. It doesn’t however hurt to have these policies in place so staff understand their entitlements and the processes to follow when they wish to request such leave.
  • If some of your staff have access to company vehicles, we’d recommend a comprehensive policy in place to cover the rules relating to company vehicles. This can address all manner of things including whether such vehicles can be used for private use or whether they are solely provided for business use, together with any rules relating to fuel or what staff should do in the event of an accident.
  • Think about other policies which may be relevant to your business. For example, a home working policy can stipulate arrangements in place for those who have occasional or regular permission to work from home. Also, what about a bring your own device (BYOD) policy? If staff use their own phones or tablets to access company accounts, information or systems, you should really have a policy in place to protect that information.
  • Finally, it’s all well and good have a raft of policies and procedures in place but these won’t do any good if they are never communicated to staff. When issuing a handbook or new or revised policies, make sure you can evidence staff have received a copy and have also read and understood the contents.

Here at SCE Solicitors, we understand business and regularly draft staff handbooks or bespoke policies and procedures for employers. If you would like to discuss a handbook, policies or procedures, or have any other enquiries relating to your employment documentation, please contact me on 01133 50 40 30 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law and dispute resolution practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

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