An employer is responsible for providing staff with a number of HR policies and documents which are usually combined in a staff handbook.

It is not a legal requirement to provide a staff handbook, but it is good practice. Bringing together your company policies in one place is a valuable resource, both for yourself and your employees.

Information such as grievance and disciplinary procedures, sickness absence and annual leave is not only convenient for employees to have at hand; it can also prove useful during any potential disputes.

Parts of a staff handbook can consist of the information that you are legally obliged to pass on, such as specific national employment law policies; other parts can include information such as:

  • The company’s history, vision, values, and culture – helping to communicate and reinforce the company ethos and brand
  • General company policies – this could include smoking/vaping policies, drug and alcohol policies, work conditions, break times, and flexible working procedures
  • Health & Safety – employers with five or more employees are required by law to have a written health & safety policy
  • Anti-discrimination policies – informing employees of the standards expected of them and promoting a safe and inclusive workplace
  • Anti-harassment policies – this is covered by the Equality Act 2010 but including a specific section on anti-harassment policies in the staff handbook can help make employees feel safe, supported, and valued.
  • Sickness absence policies – a policy of ‘Return-to-Work’ meetings following absences could be included here
  • Maternity/paternity/adoption policies – include information on leave and pay entitlements for prospective new parents.
  • Leave/holiday – including these policies will ensure that employees are aware of what limitations there are on taking leave and ease the management of holiday allowances.
  • Disciplinary procedures – this ensures that employees know what to expect and that you are consistent in your approach.
  • Grievances – any grievance and disciplinary procedure included in your handbook should comply with ACAS guidelines.
  • Communication/IT/Social media policies – this can include guidance on appropriate language and refer to Equality and Diversity policies.
  • Data Protection policies – you also need to provide employees with information on how you store & process their personal data.
  • Dress code – employers should be aware of any potential discrimination when implementing a specific dress code. 
  • Company perks – many employees may not be aware of all the incentives or perks on offer when they first join a company. The staff handbook is an ideal format to inform them and boost morale, and productivity.

Although Staff handbooks can be in whatever format you wish and include as much or as little information as you see fit, ideally, they should be user friendly, so that your staff actually read them, and at the same time they should not miss out any crucial information.

Policies change over time, and it is vital that staff handbooks are regularly checked, updated, and reissued.

Handbooks can be used in conjunction with training and development, also providing a resource for employees to refer back to if they have any questions, concerns or grievances and because staff are kept informed, this helps protect against claims.

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