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12 essential policies for your Staff Handbook

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Okay, you’ve just started your company or you’re ready to get your HR boots on and sort out a staff handbook. You know you want one that...

  • Embodies the character and spirit of the company
  • Is practical, sound and compliant
  • Tells employees, recruits, interns, apprentices and contractors...this company is ready to rock and roll!

You open your Word doc, Type “Staff Handbook” and then…

Where do you start?

Should I write a dress code?
Please put your cups in the dishwasher.
On Wednesdays we wear pink.
Don’t go on TikTok during work hours.

Luckily, at Law 365, we help Microsoft Partners create and develop truly awesome staff handbooks.

What does an exceptional staff handbook look like?

  • Your staff handbook should reflect the culture and ethos of your company.
  • It should be easy to understand and jargon-free.
  • It needs to be able to grow as your business grows.
  • It must be flexible to adapt to changing laws, so it should always be kept under review.
  • As your company evolves, and the company culture evolves, so should your staff handbook and the policies evolve to define your workplace.

But for this blog we will start with the basics, we’ve whittled it down to 12 for now.

Five staff policies required by law

1. Health and Safety

If you have 5 or more members of staff then you must have a H&S policy (though, technically this is a statement, we call it a policy). Simply put, the law says that an employer must take reasonable steps to look after the health and safety of their staff. This policy lays out these reasonable steps, such as risk assessments, advice on equipment safety and what to do in the case of emergency. Of course, in the wake of the pandemic it’s probably a good idea to have some wording for such events as pandemics, including referencing “the need to follow government guidelines”.

2. Disciplinary Rules and Procedure

It’s a sad fact that all managers will have to deal with misconduct from staff at some point in their career. One of the fundamental principles of the law itself is the right to a fair trial and this procedure must reflect the essence of this and the ACAS Code of Practice (on disciplinary and grievance procedures). The procedure will clearly lay out, from start to finish, whether formally or informally, what amounts to misconduct (serious and minor) and how misconduct will be treated and investigated. 

3. Grievance Procedures

This essential policy deals with how an employee can raise a complaint, issue or concern with the workplace (whether formally or informally). A grievance procedure should include information on how an employee may raise a grievance, how a line manager will investigate it, and outline the structure of any meetings that follow. All of this aims to provide a sense of structure and stability in what can be a very difficult situation.

An unreasonable failure to follow these guidelines can see an uplift of up to 25% if any claim were successful at tribunal!

NB: These procedures stem from laws created by Parliament and guidelines set by ACAS.

4. Data Protection Policy

Where the privacy notice (see below) is for your promise relating to the handling of employee personal data, a data protection policy covers how your organisation handles customer’s, other employee’s and any other third party’s data. A data protection policy details the principles of data protection that you and your staff must adhere to, and answers questions like: How do you protect data and confidential information? What security measures are in place? What data protection training do you provide your staff? 

5. Privacy Notice

The Privacy Notice is an internal document for employees. It states how an employer will use an employee’s personal data, how it is stored, how it is used and for what purpose. This is not a policy as such, but it goes hand in hand with the essential Data Protection Policy. Since 2018, words like controller, processor, and data subject, and anacronyms like DPA and GDPR, have become commonplace in the data protection world. 

Top tip: We always tell employers to require employees to sign the Privacy Notice and Data Protection Policy. This shows they have read and understood them and reduces your risk of being liable for any breaches in data protection obligations.

 

5 policies that are great for company culture

6. Anti-Harassment and Bullying

We all want to promote kindness in our homes, community and places of work. The issues dealt with in this policy are referenced in a disciplinary procedure, however the reason it has made our list is because it builds, complements, and enhances a company’s stand against bullying and harassment. It gives definitions and guidance on how to spot this negativity in the workplace, and explains how a member of staff can make a complaint. Importantly, this is an ideal place for you, as the business owner, to make statement that this behaviour will not be tolerated. See our Anti-Harassment and Bullying Policy for more.

7. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Like the previous policy, an Equality, diversity and inclusion policy makes it very clear that discrimination, prejudice and intolerance in the workplace will not be countenanced. But on top of that, it’s an opportunity for you to set out your values and be clear that a workforce is stronger if it’s built of staff with a wealth of backgrounds, knowledge and experience. These values are invaluable in making your company stand out in the market. This policy is a promise that equality, diversity and inclusion will be promoted through the entire employment lifecycle; from recruitment and training to promotion and beyond. 

8. Performance Procedure

We all want staff to be on top form! But of course, sometimes performance can drop. The purpose of a capability procedure is not to punish poor performance, but to set out the pathway to improvement and to fairly assess if an employee is capable of performing their role.

The most effective and fair capability procedure has a systematic approach, where employees are reviewed, set a period for improvement, and give warnings in needed. However, at some point in the process a decision will have to be made if this is a case of the employee can’t do (or won’t do!) the work they’ve been hired to do (in which case the issue will be a disciplinary matter). 

A person’s capability and performance can be seriously affected by their health, whereby they are not able to continue to perform their role as they once could. This too is dealt with in this policy, to ensure that the person’s capability to perform is assessed fairly and with sensitivity. 

9. Maternity Leave

Family is one of the core values here at Law 365 and is likely to be across many organisations, so a maternity leave policy works in cohesion with this. A maternity leave policy gives employees clarity in what can be a complex area. It will deal with practical issues from pay (is it statutory or enhanced), how much leave the employee is entitled to and when it begins. It also answers questions like, “What if I need time off for antenatal appointments?” and, “What happens to my pension on maternity leave?”

Transparency on these topics makes it easier for both employer and employee to focus on enjoying this exciting period of their life.

10. Paternity Leave

Eligible employees can have up to two consecutive weeks for paternity leave, and this policy will tackle similar questions an employee might have (and also employers new to these rights) to the Maternity Leave policy.

Psst...While we are on the happy topic of babies, it might be worth an honourable mention to all the other lovely “baby” policies that you can include in your staff handbook – which haven’t made our top 12, but real winners for expressing an inclusive and progressive work culture – like shared parental leave policy, adoption leave, parental leave and time off for dependants!

 

Lastly, our 2 top picks for Microsoft Partners

 

11. IT & Communications

Your company likely requires a vast amount of software and hardware to function. IT and the tech industry have revolutionised the way staff can communicate both internally and externally. An IT and communication policy helps your company implement effective practices around all your technology which may need particular attention with many employees working from home. The policy ensures that security and passwords are secure and that email, internet and social media is used appropriately and acceptably. This policy is essential for a Microsoft Partner! 

12. Flexible working

In our research we conducted last year, we found out that 30% of Microsoft Partners were decreasing the amount of office space they had, indicating a shift to remote and hybrid working. Alongside this, employees are now demanding that employers allow them to work from home and are requesting changes in hours, locations, rota etc. For this you will need a flexible working policy that lays out how an employee can make a request, and how an employer can respond to the request, so it is both practical and fair.  See our Flexible Working Policy for more.

 

And that completes our list of the top 12 policies to have in your staff handbook.

Law 365 is developing our own suite of these policies in a professional, accessible and friendly template form, specifically designed for a Microsoft Partner! Do get in touch if you would like more information.

And, of course, while a staff handbook is essential, a compliant contract of employment is not only essential but is required by law on day one of employment for all workers and employees. So don’t forget to add this to you list of important documents to get ready and in shape ASAP! Our employment team can help you create a thorough and fun contract with excellent terms for both you and your staff.

 

 

Fancy a natter about legal matters?

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