Have you renewed your contracts and handbook recently?
The role of the handbook is to sit alongside the contract of employment / service agreement as a non-contractual document that sets out many important policies. It can help to steer culture and engagement.
The terms should be non-contractual meaning you can amend them at any time, which is very useful for you as the handbook contains a lot of policies that are constantly changing in employment law – for example maternity and paternity provisions.
It is important for businesses to have a handbook to ensure that procedures are clear. For example, a grievance procedure. If an employee has a grievance, without a set procedure to follow it can get a bit messy. For example, who does the employee report this to? How is it dealt with? What are the time frames they can expect to hear back in? Having this in place can minimise disruption to employment by providing a clear procedure for the employee to follow, and correspondingly a clear procedure for the employer to follow to ensure the grievance is adequately dealt with.
We generally draft grievance policies in a way that employees are encouraged to resolve their issue informally in the first instance, which helps promote an amicable environment and reduces the need for formal and often stressful grievances.
In terms of disciplinary procedures, it is a requirement under the Employment Rights Act 1996 that you must have a statement on the procedure applicable to the taking of disciplinary decisions relating to an employee. This is important because in the instance that an employee is responsible for any kind of misconduct, having a procedure in place setting out what the disciplinary procedure will be minimises the potential for the employee to then dispute.
For maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave, as well as time off for antenatal appointments and adoption appointments, these are all provisions employees are entitled to and setting these out for employees is greatly helpful for them to know what they are entitled to.
Another increasingly important policy is that of a whistleblowing policy. Encouraging a culture where concerns are reported at an early stage will make it easier for management to take effective action to address concerns and avoid more serious regulatory breaches or reputational damage. The presence of an effective policy makes it less likely that a worker's disclosure to an external agency (particularly to the press) would be protected under the whistleblowing legislation.
Again use of Social media should also be clearly set out in a policy and included in a handbook.
If you have any questions in relation to handbooks and employment contracts, contact Louise Holder or a member of the EMW Employment team on 0345 070 6000, who will be able to assist you with any queries you may have.