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Why having an up to date Employee Handbook in place should be important to businesses.

An Employee Handbook can play an important part in the operation of a business, as one of its main functions is to set down rules within which staff should operate. Handbooks are intended to shape employees’ behaviour to help improve conduct in the workplace and ensure consistency in dealing with issues.

A handbook can also help show an employer’s practices are in line with employment legislation and can be used to help justify disciplinary decisions. PatCliveFSlifetimePlan

Employers may find it challenging to deal effectively with misconduct where there is no handbook in place. For example, there have been cases of employers having to make large cash settlements to dismiss employees who have clearly acted inappropriately at work (for example, by taking unauthorised absences or being under the influence of alcohol at work) because the organisation was not able to demonstrate it had appropriate policies in place to stop such behaviour.

So, what should a basic staff handbook contain? It needs to cover a number of standard topics including grievance, disciplinary procedures and an anti-harassment and bullying policy. Depending on the sector, an employer may wish to include other policies. Some businesses, for example, may choose to have a ‘relationship policy’ requiring employees who become romantically involved to disclose this. This can be particularly important in financial institutions where the unchecked flow of information between staff could lead to conflicts of interest.

Ideally handbooks should be kept up-to-date both to remain practically useful and to avoid becoming inconsistent with official guidance, legislation and case law.

Just having an up to date employee handbook in place is not necessarily enough. Employment tribunals have been reluctant to accept, on face value, that breaches of written policies automatically provide sufficient justification for disciplinary action or dismissal. Employers need to ensure their contents are communicated to employees effectively and have evidence that this has been done.

For help on this or any other HR matter please contact the HR Team at ProAktive on 01302 341344.

By Louise Addison Dip Mgmt (Open) Assoc CIPD

HR Business Partner

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