Employee Handbook Advice Guide

16 April 2019

Employee Handbook

As an employer, the conduct of your employees is key to running a successful business. And one way you can hopefully ensure this is by creating an effective employee handbook.

The handbook will clearly outline your policies and procedures on various subjects, to make your workplace run efficiently for your staff. So it's important you understand what to include in yours, as not doing so could lead to an increase in workplace conflicts and a decrease in morale.

In this guide, we'll discuss what an employee handbook is, why they're important, and what to include in yours.

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is a large document that clearly communicates your company's mission, policies, and expectations. They're a great way to help your business run smoothly.

Also known as a company handbook, staff handbook or employee manual - it includes all relevant information on your company standards and requirements. Not to mention, it makes clear what's expected of all your employees whilst they're working for you.

Why are employee handbooks important?

Employee handbooks are vitally important for several reasons. They're a way of explaining your company culture, workplace rules, and any legal requirements you have to adhere to.

You should provide each new employee with a copy of the employment handbook when they start working for you. This will help them become familiar with your key practices, as well as helping them to settle into their employment.

There are many reasons why you should create an employee handbook for your business. Let's discuss some of them in more detail:

Avoids workplace conflicts

You should never underestimate the part employee handbooks play in helping to avoid conflicts at work. A well-explained and clear code of conduct within the handbook makes it clear to all your new starters what behaviour is acceptable and what isn't.

A clear handbook should explain the consequences of poor behaviour - which will hopefully deter inappropriate conduct. Many problems arise when employees aren't fully aware of your workplace rules and regulations, so it's important you include them in yours.

Aids the onboarding process

An employee handbook plays a big part in welcoming new hires to your company. It provides them with easy access to vital information regarding your business and their employment as a whole.

A comfortable and effective onboarding process is key to making new employees feel at home in their new job. This in turn will lead to higher levels of employee engagement, morale, and productivity.

Ensures employment law compliance

Although providing an employee handbook to your staff isn't a legal requirement under Irish employment law, they're invaluable in ensuring legal compliance.

However, you do have a legal requirement to inform your employees of all company procedures. For example, ensure they are aware of the health & safety laws, as well as your policy - which creates a safe workplace and helps to avoid injuries.

Not complying with Irish employment and health & safety laws could lead to serious consequences. Such as accidents, or claims being raised against you.

Is an employee handbook the same as an employment contract?

No, an employee handbook and an employment contract aren't the same. The main difference is that an employment contract is a legally binding document. So, within the handbook, you should include a statement explaining it isn't an employment contract.

An employment contract cannot be changed without both parties agreeing to the changes. Making changes without consent is against employment law and can lead to claims being raised against you.

Whereas with an employee handbook, you can make changes without seeking prior approval.

So now you know why an employee handbook is important, you need to know what to include in yours when creating one.

What to include in an employee handbook

It's vital you include the correct elements in your employee handbook. Doing so can ensure your employees are fully aware of what's expected of them throughout their employment with you.

Becoming familiar with the different elements that need to be included helps you create the best document for your employees. Let's discuss what needs to be in yours:

Welcome statement

Firstly, you need to include a welcome statement. This statement doesn't need to be too long as it’s just an introduction to your company.

It should include words on your company's history, as well as the mission and the overall aims of your company moving forwards.

Your company's values

It's important to include your company's core values. This will help your employees to fully understand the ethos of your business and how you're going to assist them during their employment. Strong values will lead to a good impression being made on all new starters.

It's imperative your employees fully understand your company values, as this plays a major part in running a successful business.

Employment basics

This element of your employee handbook should be mostly informative and helps new employees understand basic employment terms. For example, define the contract types your business employs. This includes full-time contracts, part-time contracts, and apprentices (if you employ them).

You should also include your equal opportunities statement within this section. Not only is this a legal requirement, but it promotes a respectful and inclusive company culture.

Company policies and procedures

You should also include all your company policies and procedures. This is arguably the most important part of your employee manual.

These policies are in place to ensure you comply with all applicable laws, hopefully avoiding future claims being raised against you. The following are some examples of the policies that should be included:

It's vital you ensure the above policies are read and signed by all members of staff. Failure to make your employees aware of important employment policies may end in claims of unfair dismissal being raised against you at a later date.

Code of conduct

A code of conduct is a framework for employee behaviour whilst on company premises. Within this section, you should include information regarding employee attendance, as well as what's classed as authorised and unauthorised absences. Another example of what needs to be included within the code of conduct should be rules surrounding dress code whilst at work.

This part of the employee handbook should be used to make clear what is acceptable behaviour and what isn't. As well as all the possible disciplinary consequences if these rules are broken.

Your code of conduct can prove vital if an employee raises a claim against you for unfair disciplinary action. This is because you’ll be able to prove they were guilty of misconduct or gross misconduct.

Benefits and development information

This element of an employee handbook is also important. It explains how you'll compensate and reward employees for the work they do for you. These policies will show employees that you value them, which might lead to higher levels of motivation.

Included in this section should be any bonus information and how employees can secure one. As well as any targets that need to be hit to receive a bonus (if applicable). This is usually part and parcel of sales-based roles.

Remember to include information on employee training and development. For example, how often performance reviews will take place. Mention training opportunities and how your employees can develop their skills further whilst working for you. This should make up a big part of your overall retention strategy.

Information on employee benefits

Another important section that you should include within your employee handbook is information on employee benefits. In essence, use this part to promote the great benefits you offer your employees.

Examples of these are:

  • Work from home.
  • Employee parking.
  • Employee expenses.
  • Employee assistance programmes.
  • Gym membership.
  • Early finishes on a Friday.

However, make sure all the relevant rules are clearly explained. For example if you're providing company cars, make sure you inform employees of how you expect them to treat the vehicle.

Paid time off information

You must include a section within your employee handbook on staff working hours and paid time off. All your employees have a right to paid time off away from the job, so ensure you include all their entitlements in your handbook.

Include information on the following types of leave:

Tips for creating an effective employee handbook

Creating an effective employee handbook makes up a key part of running a successful company. Not having the right one for your company could lead to new starters struggling to settle into life in their new job.

So below are some tips to follow to create the best handbook for your business:

Create it digitally

One way to make an effective employee handbook is to ensure it's available digitally to your employees. This is so your employees can easily look at any policy they need to.

As well as this, you'll avoid any extra costs that come with printing it out in paper format. And it's better for the environment!

Ensure it's non-contractual

You should make it clear within your employee handbook that the policies and procedures are non-contractual. Meaning, you can change elements within them at any time without requiring prior agreement from your employees (in that case they'll be contractual terms).

The employment contract is the place to include things like working hours.

Keep it regularly updated

To keep your employee handbook effective, ensure you make changes when relevant legislation is updated  Because it's non-contractual, you can make changes to the handbook without employees' consent.

However, it's good practice to make your employees aware of any changes you make. This is to make sure your employees don't become unhappy that you value them as people.

Make sure your employees read it

Arguably this is the most important tip to follow when creating your employee handbook. Your employees should read and become familiar with the policies and procedures within it.

It's best practice to include a page at the end of the handbook for your employees to sign. This page should state they've received, read and understood the contents of the employee handbook.

Provide training to management

It's important you provide sufficient training to your senior staff. You need to feel confident in their ability to enforce and apply relevant policies to certain situations.

For example, if an employee arrives late to work, your senior staff should be able to manage and handle the situation correctly.

Study employee handbook examples

Make sure the language included within your handbook matches that of your company's culture. For example, if you have a relaxed culture in your business - use relaxed language in your handbook.

Your employees should be able to gauge the culture and ethos of your company from the employee handbook you create.

Get expert advice on employee handbooks from Peninsula

When running a business, how your employees act and behave is key to it being successful. And a way to outline what you expect of your staff is through a well-constructed employee handbook.

The handbook will clearly outline your policies and procedures for a variety of issues, to help your company run effectively. So it's important you understand what to include in yours, not doing so could lead to an increase in workplace conflicts and a decrease in morale.

Peninsula offers 24/7 HR advice and employee handbook support which is available 365 days a year. Want to find out more? Contact us on 0818 923923 and book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants.




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