A staff handbook (also known an employee handbook) contributes to a happy workforce through helping your staff understand what’s expected of them and what they can expect from you. A staff handbook typically includes two types of content:
- Information about your organisation – its aims, objectives and culture; and
- Company policies
Although it’s not a legal requirement to have a staff handbook it is beneficial to both you and your staff as it provides a one-stop-shop for everyday questions.
Staff Handbook, employment contracts and policies
In terms of HR management there are three categories of document to get your head around:
- Employment contracts and Statements of Terms and Conditions. These must be provided to permanent or fixed term staff within 60 days of joining your organisation. This document sets out the rights, responsibilities and duties of both parties within the employment relationship. Please refer to our employment contracts page to see what must be included;
- Policies that are a legal requirement. There are a number of policies that you are required to have by law – such as disciplinary and grievance policies. Failure to have policies that does not comply with the ACAS code could result in a 25% uplift on an Employment Tribunal compensation award. Organisations with five or more employees are required to have a Health & Safety Policy; and
- The staff handbook and other non-legally required policies. It is preferable to keep most policies separate from your employment contracts so that they can be updated as required without the need for consultation. By keeping policies external to the employment contract, you also protect yourself from a breach of contract claim if you fail to comply with your own policies.
What should be in a Staff Handbook?
The staff handbook can set the tone for your organisation and lays out its aims, objectives, culture, guidelines, rules and policies through which the organisation operates.
The handbook should set out your procedures and practices to avoid time consuming discussions on a case by case basis and to ensure you treat all staff equitably. For example, if someone asks for time off to attend a grandparent’s funeral as bereavement leave, it’s good to have your policy previously written down rather than having to make one up on the spot.
Some terms which are sometimes included in a staff handbook, such as sickness and holiday rights, are contractual and as such must be included your employment agreement or Statement of Terms and Conditions.
Staff handbooks should communicate how issues such as harassment, discrimination, absence, family-friendly rights and other HR matters are dealt with. They can be used to inform your staff about performance expectations, and clearly articulate what constitutes unacceptable behaviour and the resulting disciplinary processes.
Although the purpose of a staff handbook is primarily to set a positive staff working environment, it can also be beneficial to your organisation to demonstrate that you have documented policies and procedures if you end up in front of an Employee tribunal.
Data protection policies are sometime included in staff handbooks, but with the increased emphasis on data protection, these policies are now often kept separate to the handbook with an audit trail to check that staff have read and agreed to comply with them.
To be of any use staff handbooks should be freely available to your staff – regardless of whether your organisation’s culture is online or print, ensure staff know where to find the document and that’s its easily accessible. New staff are usually introduced to the organisation’s policies and procedures via the Staff Handbook during the induction process.
The style and tone of the handbook needs to reflect the competencies and interests of your staff. Remember you want them to read and understand the document, so ensure it is relevant to them and their interests.
The content of a staff handbook will vary between organisations, but typically the handbook includes:
- Introduction and purpose
- Overview and Employment Relationship
- General Employment Information
- Attendance at Work
- Workplace Professionalism and Company Representation
- Dress Code
- Pay and Benefits
- Time off and leave
- Health and safety
- Equal opportunities
- Discipline and grievance
- Training and development
- Termination of employment
- Use of company equipment
- Staff monitoring at work
- Performance expectations
How can we help?
We design and write Staff Handbooks specifically for our clients, not a template for you to fill in the blanks, but a customised Staff Handbook that addresses the needs of your specific business.
Importantly our Staff Handbooks are written in plain English – no ‘legalese’.
Customised Staff Handbooks – just for you
We consult with you, draft the Employee Handbook, send it to you for consideration and then edit or amend it until you are pleased with the Handbook. We charge a one off fee for an Employee Handbook no matter how many reasonable amendments you request before final sign off.
Our Employee Handbooks come with a bonus in that, providing we have an ongoing relationship with you, we will update your Employee Handbook if there are changes to employment law and we do that completely free of charge.
Please call on 01428 654 990 or drop and email to firstname.lastname@example.org .