What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is essentially the instruction manual of the employment relationship between you and your employees. It is a document given to employees explaining important and useful information about their employment with the company. It contains all company policies which are not legally required in an employment contract. These policies can be as simple or as extensive as you like but often include policies such as operational rules (e.g. use of mobile phones, uniform, receipt of gifts and gratuities), absence, lateness & timekeeping, holiday, maternity/ paternity, bullying & harassment, confidentiality and termination.

Why is it so important to have a handbook?

Provide clarity, prevent confusion

Having all company policies written and agreed by both parties ensures there is absolute clarity and little confusion of what is and isn’t acceptable. For example, if you have an absence policy that states 3 occasions of absence in one month may lead to disciplinary action, as soon as an employee hits that third occasion of absence, you can progress the attendance issue to disciplinary action. This eliminates any subjectivity in terms of what is and isn’t acceptable levels of absence and also ensures you don’t unintentionally apply unfair and inconsistent standards for different employees which could be potentially discriminatory. Furthermore, employees will be aware that 3 occasions of absence will lead to disciplinary action which may just encourage an employee at 2 absences already in the month to push through and attend work where they may have otherwise not.

Bolster decision-making, prevent risk

If you find yourself with an employee issue, having your policies written and in place can make it easier to decide the course of action and much easier to defend any decision made on the back of it. Say for example an employee makes a post on social media that reflects poorly on your business, potentially damaging your company reputation. If you have a social media policy in your handbook, it’s likely that it will state that employees may be disciplined for bringing the company to disrepute, even if outside of working hours. This would therefore inform your decision of whether or not to discipline. Furthermore, if an issue ever got to appeal or tribunal, providing you’d stuck to fair policies within your handbook, you can be confident that you’re legally complaint and can defend your decision objectively in tribunal.

Set expectations, develop company culture

A company handbook sets the tone of the employment relationship from the start. It makes clear exactly what is expected from day one. This can also help to sculpt company culture. It shows employees how the business is run and what is most important to it through it’s policies. This is a crucial part of shaping the vision you have of your company culture, into reality.

As a HR professional, I cannot stress enough the importance of having an employee handbook from the moment your company becomes an employer. It is one of the best investments a company can make in terms of its ability to save time, stress and confusion whilst setting expectations, developing culture and preventing legal complications.

These are just some of the many reasons I know you would not regret investing in a company handbook, but if this isn’t enough to convince you, why not drop me a message at megan@yourhrhandled.com to discuss in more detail.