An employee handbook is a valuable resource and reference point for all members of staff, and a good accompaniment to the Statement of Main Terms and Conditions. Although the handbook itself is not a legal requirement, the statement of main terms is a legal requirement that must be explained to each employee during induction. It is also a legal requirement to ensure each employee is aware of all company policies – such as grievance and disciplinary procedures, sickness absence and annual leave – which is why it is advisable to collate this information into a single handbook for convenience. Employers can then refer staff to the handbook if the employee has any query regarding policies and procedures. In the event of a dispute, the handbook offers a key reference point detailing the terms and conditions that both parties have agreed to. Changing these terms at any point without employee consent could result in a breach of contract on the part of the employer.
Convenience and awarenessThere are a myriad of necessary legal requirements involved with any job, and so the convenience of collating them into one centralised reference point cannot be underestimated. This makes it as easy as possible for employees to know where they stand on a particular aspect of employment – such as how to book holidays, or understanding the sickness policy. Problems arise when the employee is not made aware of an employee handbook from the induction stage, or they have not been informed of an amended version. It is always worth recording written confirmation from each employee once they have initially been given a copy of the handbook. In the event that an employee breaches a key term of their employment and is dismissed, it is not likely to be a fair dismissal if the employee can prove that they have not been made aware of the terms and conditions in question.
The law behind employee handbooksWhilst a handbook is not a legal requirement, it is a convenient way of housing legally required terms and conditions of employment.` These terms are detailed in the Employment Rights Act 1996 (sections 1 – 3).
How to write an employee handbookAn employee handbook, employee manual as it is also known, should cover every required aspect of workplace regulations. Every business is different, and may require additional information specific to the company, though it is advisable to include comprehensive detail on the following sections as standard:
- Holiday entitlement and conditions
- Sickness/injury payment and condition
- Disciplinary rules and procedures
- Capability procedures
- Disciplinary appeal procedure
- Grievance procedure
- Personal harassment policy
- General information
- Employee handbooks are often an essential resource for any business, both to orientate new recruits and inform them of their terms of employment.
- All employers should require new starters to provide written confirmation that they have received the handbook.
- Failure to make employees aware of their terms of employment may result in a claim of unfair dismissal should any issues arise.