What HR policies, procedures and documentation should small businesses have in place?

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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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Arguably, policies and procedures are the building blocks of your employee relations. They let employees know exactly where they stand in certain situations; what contractual rights they have; how they will be treated and how they should behave. Clear and robust policies and procedures, when consistently applied, create the expectation of standard methods of operation. Some procedures are a must in any business for a couple of reasons – they are either legally required, or vital in operational terms to ensure the efficient operation of your business and good management of your employees. One procedure which is required is a disciplinary procedure, alongside disciplinary rules. As expected, the rules will state what kinds of behaviour are deemed to be unacceptable and also what action may be taken for breach of the rules. Rules are often categorised by the seriousness of their breach, and consequent action will be tailored accordingly. The disciplinary procedure sets out how rule breaches will be dealt with and will invariably include the process of disciplinary hearings followed by sanctions e.g. warnings, dismissal etc. Minimum requirements for a disciplinary procedure are heavily prescribed in codes of practice and other guidance, but some details are left to the employer’s discretion. Good disciplinary procedures, and the employer’s adherence to them, are vital in defending any unfair dismissal claim brought against the company. A grievance procedure is also required. This is the method through which an employee may have a complaint in relation to his work dealt with in a reasonable manner. Again, minimum expectations of an employer in relation to grievance procedures is detailed in statutory guidance. An equal opportunities policy, whilst not a legal requirement, is extremely helpful in defending discrimination claims because it sets out your stance on discrimination, harassment etc. Other useful policies include an annual leave booking procedure to help you deal with holiday requests fairly, or a robust absence reporting procedure to help notify you of staff absence, followed by a sickness absence procedure to deal with unacceptable levels of absence. The type of business you run will dictate other useful policies because your operating methods will require attention from your staff. For example, you may need a cash handling policy if you run a shop, or an email and internet policy if your staff will have access to computers. Keeping policies under review is also good practice so that you can amend them to suit the changing needs of the business. For any further information regarding this article, please call the Peninsula advice service on 0844 892 2772.

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