The employment contract sets out your employees’ rights, responsibilities and duties within the employment relationship. However, as an employer you also need a set of policies complying with the Acas Code on grievance and disciplinary procedures. Your employees also have statutory rights to holiday leave and pay and it makes sense to set these details out in a policy.
These can be contained in a company handbook, employers’ handbook or staff manual. UK employers are not obliged to have a formal handbook, but they must have certain key policies and procedures written down.
Company handbook policies can form part of your employment contracts. However, if they are minor or non-detrimental and they are not part of the contract of employment, they can be updated in line with current legislation as and when required, without having to obtain your employee’s agreement.
By leaving policies and procedures out of the employment contract, you also protect yourself from a breach of contract claim if you fail to adhere to a policy. For instance, it is vital to include a disciplinary and grievance policy that complies with the Acas Code.
Failure to follow the Acas Code in a grievance or disciplinary matter could result in a 25% uplift on an Employment Tribunal’s compensation award. However, the procedure is better set out in a policy so if there is a failure to follow it to the letter, this will not result in a breach of contract.
Some terms which are also often included in a company handbook, such as sickness and holiday rights, are contractual as they must be included in the statement of employment particulars which all employees must receive under the Employment Rights Act.
The company handbook can begin with an introduction to the company, setting out your organisation’s aims and ethos. It should then explain your company’s employment policies. While every company handbook will be unique, there are some common elements.
The list of policies that might go in your employment handbook is long and not all policies will be necessary in all industries or for all companies.
Many small business employee handbooks start with a handful of policies which are added to over time. Our employment law solicitors can review and update these to ensure they comply with employment law changes. For example, we would review your retirement policy to ensure you avoid unintentionally falling foul of recently-introduced age discrimination legislation.
We also work with many larger employers, providing new company handbooks that are up to date with current legislation and that meet the needs of the business; for example, by including a Bribery Act Policy.
We will explore your requirements in detail to ensure your company handbook is legally compliant and meets the needs of your business. So whether you are providing an employment handbook for the first time, updating a number of policies, or introducing new policies as your business grows, you can trust your handbook is fit for purpose.
Our standard fees for employment handbooks make it easy for you to budget.