How A Staff Handbook Could Save Your Company
A staff handbook, or employee handbook, outlines a company’s policies and procedures. The employee handbook should be given to staff at the start of their employment to inform them of the relevant procedures and the company’s views on important issues. By giving employees this information at the start, they will be assured that issues are dealt with fairly and consistently. Although staff handbooks should be personalised to reflect an individual company’s culture and views, there are a few categories that should be included in order to create a clear and effective employee handbook.
This should come at the start of the staff handbook to introduce employees to the company, perhaps by including a brief history and may include the struggles the founders faced to build the company. This will help employees identify with the founders and become more passionate about a business that took daring people and hard work to create. This way, you will create a more personal relationship with your employees, strengthening the relationship between employers and employees.
By highlighting the aims of the company, employees will know what is expected of them and all employees can share common goals. This will give employees a sense of belonging and an understanding of what they should be striving towards – again strengthening relations between the company and employees.
Equal opportunities policy
It is important for employees to feel valued and understand what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable with regards to equality in the workplace, creating a fair and respectable environment. This can also be handy if your company is faced with a discrimination claim; this policy can be used as part of the defence against the claim.
Health and Safety policy
If your business has five or more employees, you are legally required to have a written statement of the general policy regarding health and safety. You should also specifically include information about any hazardous activities that could arise during the course of business. By outlining the health and safety policy, you can make it clear what injuries the company will be held liable for, while also alerting employees to possible health or safety risks.
Staff drug and alcohol policy
Without this staff policy, staff may not be aware of your company’s restrictions on drug or alcohol consumption and whether this policy applies out of office. Additionally, it would be difficult without a staff drug and alcohol policy to insist that employees participate in any drug or alcohol testing arrangements.
Staff email and Internet policy
Some employees do misuse email and Internet services at work. If you want your business to monitor staff Internet activities, there must be a written agreement in place, and the staff handbook is a perfect place to include this and meet the legal requirements.
Data protection policy
Businesses are legally required to have arrangements in place to ensure the safe storage and processing of data about employees. The data protection policy in the employee handbook should include a data consent form that employees should sign to indicate their agreement with the arrangements set for data processing. This way, staff will be aware of their rights to obtain information at the start of employment, limiting any potential dispute in the future.
Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Parental leave policy
This policy should be outlined in the staff handbook to follow the requirements of the law and set out your company’s policy. By stating the parental leave policy at the start of employment, employees will know what to expect should such an occasion arise.
Flexible working hours
Under the current legislation, all employees will be able to ask for flexible working hours once they have worked for an employer for a minimum of 26 weeks, removing the previous requirement that an employee must have caring responsibilities. However, employers will have the ability to refuse requests for flexibility on business grounds (such as additional cost or inability to reallocate work to existing staff), so you should outline your stance on this issue in the staff handbook to avoid any later disputes with your employees.
Staff sickness absence policy
If employees know that sick leave is carefully monitored, absence rates are likely to diminish, producing cost savings for your business. You should create a policy that sets out the process for managing staff absences which is fair to the employee and also meets the needs of your business.
This is an important policy to set out the actions that staff should follow if they consider that something unlawful or inappropriate is happening in your business. Emphasise that the first step should be to express this within the company to avoid embarrassment or a blow to your company’s reputation.
Disciplinary, Dismissal and Redundancy procedure
Although these are negative aspects of a staff handbook, it is necessary to outline the procedures in such a case so that employees know how to conduct themselves. In this section, you should outline prior notice agreements and payment procedures should dismissal or redundancy occur, to prevent having to outline these arrangements when asking an employee to leave. This section will also ensure that you comply with the Law and settle any queries staff may have with regards to such arrangements.
Whilst some sections of a staff handbook are down to the creator’s vision and goals for the company, the staff handbook is still a legal document and must comply with the Law. For any business starting out, you want to make sure that there is a strong legal foundation upon which to build your business to make staff feel safe and stable within your company. Linkilaw makes legal advice more accessible for startups and can advise on the best way to create a clear and comprehensive staff handbook.