Implementing and maintaining an up-to-date employee handbook is an essential asset for any employer as it represents the business’ core values and sets out what is expected of employees. Despite this, some employers fail to recognise the importance of an employee handbook.

Why are employee handbooks important?

An employee handbook sets out what is expected of employees as well as stating their rights. A number of different policies can be included within a handbook. Typical policies include grievance procedure, disciplinary procedure, capability procedure, social media policy, IT and communications policy, equal opportunities policy and whistleblowing policy in addition to numerous others. Additional bespoke policies can also be drafted to meet the specific needs of a business.

Clear policies and procedures within an employee handbook that are implemented consistently and reviewed regularly are key in helping any business manage a productive workforce.

A handbook can also be used to assist in successfully defending employment tribunal claims which can be damaging to finances and reputation. For example, in an unfair dismissal claim an Employment Tribunal will carefully consider how an employer has applied its disciplinary procedure when assessing the fairness of the dismissal and whether the employer has acted reasonably in all the circumstances.

What should you ensure following the implementation of your employee handbook?

As an employer it is your responsibility to ensure that the content in your handbook is up-to-date and accurately reflects the policies and procedures implemented in practice and that it is compliant with current employment law legislation.

Once a staff handbook is in place, the following points should be implemented:

• Request reviews regularly to ensure the policies and procedures are up-to-date and compliant with employment law as changes are frequent;

• Ensure that all employees are familiar with the policies and procedures. Contracts of employment should expressly refer to the handbook and confirm that the employee has read and understood the terms within the handbook. The handbook should be easily accessible to all employees e.g. an electronic copy on a shared computer drive and a hard copy in a place that is easily accessible to employees in the workplace;

• Provide training and guidance to senior members of staff on the importance of following the procedures that are in place consistently and provide refresher training where appropriate; and

• Keep documents to evidence that the business follows the procedures in place.

Here at Farleys Solicitors LLP, our specialist employment team have a wealth of experience in drafting and reviewing employee handbooks. For a free review of existing contracts of employments and/or your employee handbook, please contact Sally Eastwood, Employment Solicitor directly via Sally.Eastwood@farleys.com. Alternatively please phone 01254 229800, or fill out an online contact form.