POLICIES, PROCEDURES AND FORMS

TO BE INCLUDED IN YOUR HANDBOOK

We advise employers on appropriate employment policies and procedures. Drafting bespoke policies is just the start. Documents alone do not provide adequate protection.

What is also key is Understanding:

  • the policies;
  • training staff; and
  • reviewing and updating policies and applying them consistently.

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Employing and managing staff is a complex exercise and employment law risks are diverse and ever changing. As an employer, you may decide to have a single staff handbook including all of your policies or to have separate policies.

A key reason to have your policies and procedures separate from the employment contract is the crucial ability to amend them as the need arises. The employment contract, like all contracts, once concluded can generally only be varied by mutual consent. If important policies are included in the employment contract that need to be altered, if the employee refuses it presents an employer with some difficulty. If you have a number of employees you will also have a logistical and resource problem.

Even if non-contractual, failure to follow your policies, whilst not a breach of contract, will often be taken into account by an employment tribunal if relevant. Employers need to have good reason if they don’t adhere to their own policy. There is also a residual threat of a policy being deemed to be contractual, if custom and practice supports such a finding.

COMMON ISSUES DEALT WITH BY EMPLOYEE POLICIES

There are very few legal requirements on employers in Great Britain to have written policies. For the most part, policies set out in a staff handbook are there as a matter of good practice, to set out the standard expected of employees, to assist the running of the business and to reduce legal risk by making sure employees and managers understand the legal rights and responsibilities inherent in the employment relationship.

However, there is a minimum level of information that must be given to employees in writing. Much of this must be given in a single written statement of terms which may be given in the form of a statement, a letter of engagement or a written employment contract. It is often the case that certain information will be given in an offer letter and then repeated in the Contract of Employment. Obviously the terms must not conflict. However, some information can be (and usually is) given in a staff handbook or other “reasonably accessible document”.

There are also areas where a written policy is not compulsory but can bring significant legal protection for the employer, beyond merely setting out standards of behaviour or employees’ entitlements. There are certain policies and procedures that are, in general, required by law, and those that there are strong legal reasons for including. A sample of some of the policies that would be recommended are as follows:

  • disciplinary and grievance procedures;
  • sickness absence;
  • health and safety Policy;
  • equal opportunities;
  • harassment and bullying at work;
  • email and internet usage and social media;
  • maternity/paternity and adoption leave;
  • time off for dependents and other emergencies;
  • flexible working;
  • drugs, alcohol and smoking;
  • anti-bribery and corruption; and
  • data protection and confidentiality.

CONSISTENT APPROACH IS CRITICAL

Having the right policies is just the start – applying them consistently and fairly is also key, including evidencing in writing how you have applied the policies if problems arise so that you have records for the future and can demonstrate a consistent and objective approach with all employees. Failure to do so may lead to a raft of issues and possibly claims, whether they be grievances, a possible constructive dismissal claim or some form of discrimination claim. Simply having policies drafted and then filing them away in a drawer thinking “job done” is a very dangerous approach. Instead, ensure you are familiar with your policies at all times and that all staff are not only made aware of them but they are expressed as being an important aspect of day to day employment practice. Management staff should also be trained about the policies with regular reviews, updates and ongoing training. All staff should also be specifically alerted to the policies and any alterations.

HOW WE CAN HELP

If you require an audit of your existing practices and policies it would enable us to advise you accordingly to determine what is required.

COULD YOU CLAIM FOR BREACH OF CONTRACT?

Then please contact us on 02380 402066 or use our contact page for a free consultation