To some the employee handbook seems like an unwieldy document that gets dusted off and referred to when things go wrong like insurance policy terms and to others it forms the backbone of the employment journey, acting as a guide to employees and managers alike from induction through to termination.

Either way, a well-worded, comprehensive employee handbook not only provides legal protection for an organisation but also sets out clear expectations of what an employee can expect from the company, in terms of working conditions, fairness and consistency of treatment, benefits and rewards, etc. and what the company can expect in return; employee behaviour, performance and adherence to policies and procedures to name but a few.

It is vital that your employee handbook is kept up to date to not only reflect current legislation but also the current and future needs of your business. Should you find yourself being challenged, one of the first documents referred to is likely to be your handbook, so keeping it in tip-top condition will pay dividends in the future!

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Still not convinced it deserves a top spot on your list of priorities? We’ve highlighted some more reasons as to why you may want to think again.

Introduces your values and ethos

A significant investment for most businesses is its wage bill. Once you have recruited your team, you want to be able to gain a return on that investment as quickly as possible. Your employee handbook will clearly communicate your Vision, Mission and Culture of your business; it will outline those values which will drive internal behaviours and clearly define the goals of the Company, so that employees know who we are, where we want to get and how we are going to get there. All of this will greatly contribute to ensuring your new starters will begin contributing to the business more quickly.

Management Tool

Employee handbooks that clearly outline key policies and procedures means that managers don’t have to worry about how they need to respond to a situation, as it is all clearly laid out for them and the employee.

For example, if an employee is unable to attend work due to sickness, they can follow the absence reporting procedure and if it becomes an issue that need to be addressed, the manager can refer to the absence management policy and follow the steps to resolve the issue with the employee.

Fairness and consistency

Having your processes and procedures in one place for all to see means that one standard is adopted for everyone. Managers can refer to your handbook when responding to questions or making decisions, ensuring that their actions and responses are consistent with your policies, reinforcing a sense of fairness across your team. This should also decrease the likelihood of claims for discrimination for example.

Defending a Claim

When it comes to defending an employee claim, an up to date and legally compliant employee handbook will be vital in demonstrating that the Company has exercised “reasonable care” towards its employee. Having an acknowledgement page that the employee has signed to say that they have read, understood and agree to comply with the terms contained within will only strengthen the Company’s position, should it find itself in the unfortunate situation of needing to mount a defence. They then can’t argue that they weren’t aware of the rules!

Top tips

  • Review and update your handbook at least once a year to ensure it remains legally compliant and reflects the current and future needs of your business.
  • Ensure the employee handbook is accessible for all, soft copies, hard copies, it doesn’t matter which, what matters is that everyone has access to it and they read it!
  • Train your managers to ensure they understand how to implement the policies and procedures in a fair and consistent way.
  • Ensure that you clearly communicate any updates to the handbook to all members of the team and make a record that this has taken place.
  • Ensure that your handbook clearly states that it is non-contractual, unless otherwise stated and that it may be subject to change in order to ensure it remains relevant and consistent with legislation and the ongoing needs of the business. The ability to vary the handbook without requiring formal consent can save you valuable time and energy.

When was the last time you updated your employee handbook?

Our Online HR Toolkit is an amazing recourse for all HR documents, templates and policies and that all-important employee handbook.

For a bespoke HR Service our team of HR experts are on hand to provide you with support and advice by reviewing and updating your current employee handbook or creating one from scratch to reflect your individual needs and protect your business. Contact a member of our team in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex today for more help and advice.