HR Policies & Documentation for Small Businesses

  • HR Policies Documentation
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Having clear HR policies will help to prevent problems before they happen. Find out which policies you need and the best way to format them in our guide.

As an employer, you need to ensure that you have all the correct policies and procedures in place. These workplace procedures help provide structure for an organisation. This can then help protect employees and employers from legal trouble.

Without them, you and your managers may struggle to handle situations appropriately. This could lead to legal claims, hefty fines and damage to business reputation.

In this guide, we'll look at what HR policies are, which ones you need in your business and how to implement them.

What are HR policies?

HR policies explain an organisation's approach to certain employee matters. Company policies create a defined framework that ensures consistent decisions are made.

Companies of all sizes should have clearly defined HR policies. They can cover everything from overtime pay to health & safety procedures. Every company policy should be outlined within their employee handbook or employment contracts.

What are the benefits of HR policies?

Human resource policies have a number of benefits. Not only are they useful for HR professionals, they also help support managers by keeping employees informed about their rights and benefits.

Different policies have different purposes. That's why companies tend to change and update them as they progress. Human resources policies can benefit companies by:

  • Protecting staff from discrimination related to protected characteristics.
  • Setting and managing employee expectations.
  • Communicating clear terms of employment.
  • Explaining a company's expectations.
  • Creating a healthy work culture.
  • Aligning company policies with legal requirements and industry practices.

What is an HR strategy?

HR strategies are a roadmap to help solve 'people issues' within an organisation. Without it, a business can feel lost and struggle to grow and develop.

These issues include:

By incorporating all of these into your strategy you can better understand your business objectives and needs. It can also help you evaluate your employee skill set, identify any weaknesses and conduct a gap analysis.

Do all staff need to follow your company's HR policies?

When creating HR policies, you need to consider the employment status of your staff. Employment classifications determine whether someone is a worker, employee, or self employed.

This classification may mean that they follow different employment legislation than the rest of your workforce. This could mean that a workplace policy or certain employee benefits aren't applicable to them.

Which HR policies are mandatory?

While no HR policies are legally mandatory, there are some HR policies that employers should implement within their business. These formal written policies are essential to human resource management and can help businesses run efficiently.

These policies are:

Let's explore the purpose of these policies in further detail.

Disciplinary and dismissal procedures

Unfortunately, sometimes you need to discipline or dismiss employees. The reasons why can vary, from gross misconduct to capability dismissals.

Having a clear disciplinary procedure can help you manage employee conduct and avoid HR issues. These policies help protect employees from unfair dismissal and ensure that businesses act fairly when conducting disciplinary or dismissal actions.

There are a range of disciplinary measures that a business can implement. The action will depend on the severity of the issue and can range from a verbal warning to a summary dismissal.

Grievance policies

A grievance policy outlines how an employer investigates and solves employee grievances. The grievance process is largely similar across all companies regardless of their size and industry.

Employers must create a channel for employees to raise issues, so that they can investigate the situation fully. From there, they will be able to decide whether the complaint should be upheld and if so, what punitive action is necessary.

Health & safety policies

It is a legal requirement for companies with more than five employees to have a written health & safety policy. This ensures that employers are providing a safe working environment free from risk (as much as reasonably possible).

A company's specific health & safety policy will depend on the industry or workplace. However, they should all outline procedures for reporting accidents and near misses. They should also inform employees about facilities and help ensure that new hires have a full and complete health & safety induction.

Who develops and enforces HR policies?

Some HR policies and procedures are legally required. This is often due to safety issues such as PPEworking hours or break periods. Others are in place to maintain discipline and support staff and managers with emergency procedures.

Most policies are enforced by an internal HR department as part of a larger HR strategy. However, if you are a small business, you may not have the resources to manage a dedicated HR team. In this instance it is up to you as an employer to enforce HR procedures and continue implementing these policies.

When do you need to implement certain policies?

When establishing guidelines you need to consider the number of employees you have as well as your industry. For example, some industries are legally required to have specific policies relating to health & safety and other working conditions.

Different policies and procedures are needed at various stages of the employment relationship. So you may find that you need to add or create policies as your company continues to grow.

Considering the employee lifecycle can be a useful way to assess the needs of your current workforce. Lets explore this further:

Before employment

There are some relevant policies that need to be introduced to new employees from day one of their employment. This could include policies and procedures that current managers must implement when hiring for a role.

During employment

There are many HR policies that employees will need to be aware of to help them perform their regular duties. Being aware of them can help them follow best practice and perform better in their current roles.

Examples of common policies include:

Not all these policies would need to be written formally. Some could be more informal verbal policies that are relayed to staff.

After employment has ended

There are many reasons why an employment relationship ends. It may be due to a voluntary resignation, a dismissal, or redundancy.

Each of these circumstances will have a specified procedure to follow and should be documented within your employee handbook. Doing so can help ensure that you remain compliant and avoid potential claims of unfair dismissal.

There may be some instances when a key employee leaves your organisation and goes to work for a direct competitor. In this instance you may need to instigate a period of garden leave to ensure that important business information remains confidential.

How to introduce a new HR policy

How you introduce HR policies is essential to their success. An employment relationship must be built on trust and strong workplace policies and procedures are a key part of this.

Policy implementation is an important part of fair treatment for employees.

Assess the needs of your employees

A company's policies must be aligned with their vision, values and culture. Part of that is assessing what your employees need and the applicable laws associated with these needs.

For example, if your employees require certain safety equipment, you may have a policy to ensure that this is worn when needed. You may also have policies on how employees use company property or how staff should refrain from using personal devices during working hours.

Discuss any changes with employees

For staff to follow a particular policy, they need to know the rules. Any new policies must be communicated to staff. Talking through the new changes can help them to understand the rules and the disciplinary action that is associated with them.

Keep the channels of communication open during this process. This allows employees the chance to air any concerns they may have about the changes. Make sure you listen to any issues that they raise as they can help you and your company improve.

Formalise new and existing policies

All workplace policies should be documented and stored within your employee handbook. This ensures that they're easily accessible for all employees. Important policies could also be placed on notice boards in communal areas or on the company intranet.

When a new member of staff joins your team, you should provide them with a copy of the employee handbook. Once it has been read you should ask them to sign and return a receipt that clearly states that they have understood your workplace policies. This can help ensure that they know how they should behave, and the potential disciplinary action associated with not following the rules.

Train your managers

For your policies to work effectively, you need managers that can competently follow them. Sometimes policies will dictate that a manager has to carry out appraisals and return to work interviews which can result in difficult conversations.

Support managers by providing them with adequate training on how to do this effectively to avoid policy violations. This can help keep their knowledge and skills up to date.

Enforce the rules

When new policies come into play, it can take a while for staff to adjust. If you notice that a lot of employees are violating a certain policy then you need to take steps to resolve the issue.

For example if you have a policy relating to lateness, and an employee is continuously showing up late, you need to rectify this. If an employee continuously breaks a workplace policy, you may need to enact disciplinary measures.

The disciplinary measures you enact must correlate to the severity of the issue. Some of your policies may have zero tolerance guidelines such as instances of sexual harassment.

Assess and review your policies

Employment laws are continuously changing and adapting. That's why you need to review and check the policies in your employee handbooks on a regular basis.

You may need to create policies as your business and workforce grows. For example, if employees begin attending client lunches or dinners, you may need to implement an alcohol policy.

There is no set frequency that employers should follow when reviewing their policies. However, it is best practice to review human resources policies on an annual basis. This can help you adapt to any employment law changes or complaints from staff.

Employees should sign any changes made to policies to prove that they are aware of them. This can help protect you and your business in the future.

Get advice on HR policies from Peninsula

It's important that businesses of every size have well written HR policies in place. If not, they could find themselves struggling to manage essential human resource issues.

From sexual harassment to managing personal devices, get an HR policy wrong and you could face find yourself facing costly claims. Peninsula offers expert advice on HR policies in your business. Our HR team offers unlimited 24/7 HR employment services available 365 days a year.

Want more information about implementing HR policies in your business? Seek advice from one of our HR advisors. For further information, call our telephone number 0800 028 2420.

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