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What an Employer Needs to Know About an Employee Handbook in the UK

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Most businesses will have employee handbooks. An employee handbook provides employees with a reference tool when they have questions about their employment. Additionally, a handbook can also help outline the procedures you will follow if an employment dispute arises. Accordingly, an employee handbook can provide transparency for employees who are aware of the procedures involved in resolving workplace disputes. This article will explain what you need to know about an employee handbook and what policies your handbook should contain

What Are Employee Handbooks?

An employee handbook is where you keep your workplace policies and procedures for your staff’s reference. An employee handbook (also known as a company handbook, a staff manual, employee manual, a company policy manual or a staff handbook) differs from your employment contract with your staff. Employment contracts establish your employees’ rights and duties and your responsibilities towards them. 

In saying that, your employee handbook can form part of the employment contract with your staff. If it does, the contract must explicitly state that your employee must follow the handbook. Alternatively, if you fail to carry out your policies and procedures correctly, you could be liable for breach of contract. 

Where your employee handbook is not part of the employment contract with your employees, it allows you to quickly amend and update your policies and procedures as you are not required to get your employees’ consent.

Why Have Employee Handbooks?

You do not have to have an employee handbook by law. However, you are required to have specific employment policies and procedures written down for your staff. These policies and procedures must comply with the Acas Code of Practice

It is also a legal requirement to ensure that all staff know your employment policies. Therefore, it is good practice and makes sense to place these policies and procedures in one easily accessible place. Ultimately, if your staff ask you a question about a policy or practice, you can refer them to your employee handbook.

You should inform your staff of your employee handbook on their first day of employment with you. When you make your staff aware of your employee handbook, it is a good idea to have written confirmation of this interaction. Consequently, you have proof that your employees are aware of specific policies and procedures should they later violate these policies. 

It is also good practice to reinforce your employee handbook to your staff through training sessions that show your commitment to your procedures and policies. When doing so, you should take on employee feedback to help you amend policies as necessary.

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What Should Be in Employee Handbooks?

Your employee handbook should contain your workplace’s policies and procedures. These will vary depending on your business and what you may choose to include. Some standard policies and procedures you will find in employee handbooks include:

  • health and safety policies;
  • holiday leave entitlements
  • disciplinary and appeal procedures;
  • a whistleblowing policy;
  • leave policies;
  • data protection policies;
  • email and internet use policies;
  • anti-corruption, bribery and tax evasion policies; 
  • equal opportunities and diversity policy; and 
  • flexible and home working policies.

Before placing your policies in your employee handbook, you may want to include an introduction to your business, such as its vision statement. An introduction to your business can help your employees understand the aims and ethos of your business. It is also an excellent place to detail your general code of conduct for employment, your business dress code, and company benefits.

Key Takeaways

While having an employee handbook is not a legal requirement, it is a legal requirement to:

  • have specific policies and procedures in writing; and
  • make your staff aware of these policies. 

Therefore, it makes sense to place these in one easily accessible place for your employees to access. Your employee handbook will contain your policies and procedures, such as a diversity and equality policy or holiday leave policy. In addition, you must include a grievance and disciplinary procedure that complies with the Acas code. Ensuring that your employee handbook is clear and given to all your employees can help you if you face any disputes with them.

If you need help understanding employee handbooks in the UK, our experienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents for a low monthly fee. So call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is where you keep your employment policies and procedures for your staff’s reference.

Is an employee handbook legally binding?

Employee handbooks can be legally binding if they form part of the employment contract.

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Clare Farmer

Clare Farmer

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