10 essential HR policies every business needs

James Potts - Legal Services Director

July 19 2022

Policies are crucial to your success.

Without written policies, you can’t set expectations for your staff. You might find it easier to create rules as you go along, but this will create problems down the line.

Your policies give you and your staff guidance. They establish your processes and standards of behaviour, saving you time and helping you stay consistent.

Plus, if your worker makes a claim, you’ll need to show a tribunal that you followed a fair process. Without policies, it’ll be difficult for you to prove this - which could lead to costly pay-outs and a ruined reputation…

To avoid risk and protect your business, let’s tackle the essentials…

1. Disciplinary

You might need to take disciplinary action against a worker if you’re not happy with their behaviour or performance.

To be compliant with the law, you need a disciplinary policy. Your disciplinary policy should include a step-by-step guide to your disciplinary process.

This should answer questions like: why might a worker get a disciplinary? At what point do I have to investigate? What happens after?

You need to pack this information into your policy.

It’s very easy to make mistakes during a disciplinary process. Even if you have a fair reason for dismissal, like your worker stole company property, you’ll need to show you followed correct procedure.

Your worker might make a complaint to a tribunal if they think the disciplinary is unfair. And if the disciplinary lead to dismissal, they might try to claim they were unfairly dismissed.

By following written rules, you can show that you acted in line with the law. So, you’ve done everything you can do to protect yourself against these claims.

2. Grievances

It’s best practice to tell staff how they can report a complaint, problem, or concern in a written policy.

Because if your staff took you to a tribunal, you’ll need to show you followed a full and fair process to resolve the grievance.

Having a grievance policy:

  • protects you from risk and costly pay-outs
  • shows you take your staff’s concerns seriously
  • tells new hires in the onboarding process that you care about how they feel and want to help if they have issues

You’ll need to have your staff sign your policy as proof they’ve received and read it. So, if staff do make a claim against you, you can defend yourself.

3. Health & safety

Legally, if you employ more than five workers, you need to have a written health & safety policy.

Your policy should outline your safe working practices and how you reduce health & safety risks to staff. This might involve carrying out risk assessments or providing PPE (personal protective equipment).

And all your staff should have a copy.

Because when you give staff all the necessary safety information and equipment, you help to reduce the risk of accidents and injury.

Your policy means you and your workers know how to prevent accidents that could lead to serious injuries and legal claims. So, you can have peace of mind knowing you’ve done everything you can to keep your workplace safe.

4. Code of conduct

You need a policy that outlines your company values.

A conduct policy tells your workers how they should behave at work, and behaviour that could lead to disciplinary action. This helps keep staff in line with your values, which makes your workplace a safer and more comfortable environment for everyone.

Your policy can also protect your business by reducing the risk of corrupt behaviour and a conflict of interest.

5. Bullying and harassment

If someone feels offended, intimidated, or excluded in the workplace, they might be a victim of bullying or harassment.

If staff bully co-workers for personal characteristics like their sex, race, or disability, then you could be dealing with a discrimination claim.

This is likely to lead to a costly tribunal process, irreparable staff relations, and a damaged reputation…

When you have a policy that condemns bullying and harassment, you can:

  • reduce the risk of staff stepping out of line
  • make it easier to follow HR best practice and prevent a situation from getting out of hand
  • protect yourself if an incident does go to tribunal – as you can show you followed a thorough and fair process

You should also back up your bullying and harassment policy with a policy on…

6. Equality and Diversity

An equality and diversity policy can help prevent bullying, harassment, and discrimination. It helps staff understand what this behaviour looks like at work, so they can report incidents.

Your policy should outline discrimination laws like the Equality Act 2010. This law protects personal characteristics like age, disability, and sex.

When you have an equality and diversity policy, you show that:

  • you care about making your workplace inclusive – establishing yourself as a forward-thinking employer
  • you’re serious about preventing discrimination

Your equality and diversity policy can make your staff feel seen and appreciated. So, they’ll be more likely to stay with your company.

Without this policy, your staff might not know what counts as discriminatory behaviour. This increases the risk of incidents happening and staff making claims.

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7. Sickness and absence

It’s inevitable that your staff will need time off work to deal with sickness.

It can be difficult to manage staff absences, so it’s useful to have a policy that tells you what to do. It saves you time and stress. It also means staff can’t accuse you of being unfair as the same policy goes for everyone.

When would staff need to provide a fit note? How many days of sick pay can they get? Do absences trigger points that might lead to disciplinary? These are questions your workers need to know.

Having a policy makes everything far less complicated. You don’t need to second-guess what to do if your staff are off sick unexpectedly. Your policy will tell you what steps to take, so you’re always prepared.

8. Data protection

You have a legal responsibility to manage confidential data safely and securely. You might work in an industry where you hold a lot of personal information about clients. Think about what would happen if that data was stolen…

You have to be able to prove that your company has security measures in place in order to comply with GDPR-data standards. If you don’t comply, you could be fined or prosecuted.

Having a data protection policy shows that your company follows best practices. It helps you stay safe, and also reassures your customers that you’re taking precautions to protect their data.

Plus, when your staff know the written rules of how you manage and protect data, you reduce the risk of cyber-leaks.

9. Redundancy

You may need to make a worker redundant if you no longer have a need for their job in your company.

If your worker were to make an unfair dismissal claim, you’ll need to show that you followed a full and fair process when carrying out the redundancy.

You’re more likely to be successful if you followed all the correct steps as outlined in your written policy.

Your policy also means that you give all your staff fair treatment, and you can justify reasons for making the redundancy.

10. Family-friendly

Family-friendly policies establish your company rules and perks. They help staff balance work and family commitments.

You might want to offer benefits like flexible working hours and family health plans.

By setting up a family-friendly policy, you show your staff that you support them as parents and carers too. So, you’re more likely to keep them happy and loyal.

Having a policy will also help you:

  • manage issues if staff need time off for childcare unexpectedly – you save time and stress when you can follow the process in your policy
  • avoid the risk of staff accusing you of being unfair – a policy ensures that you provide the same treatment and rights to all your working parents
  • attract talent – family-friendly policies show your support for working parents and carers, which is likely to attract more talent

Concerned your current policies aren’t up-to-date or up to scratch?

Get your policies crafted for you when you join Peninsula, saving you time, doubt and risk.

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