Why Your Small Business Needs an Employee Handbook

When you employ staff, it’s important to have your policies and procedures in one convenient document that can be referred back to, time and time again. The easiest way you can do this is by giving your employees a handbook, which tells them what is expected of them, shows them that you’re fair and want to treat everyone the same, and provides you with a point of reference if you’re faced with a difficult situation.

Let me give you an example. You have an employee who is regularly late for work. Sometimes they call or text ahead to let you know, and sometimes they don’t so you aren’t even sure if they are coming in to work. If you don’t have an employee handbook with a summary of your attendance/time-keeping policy and you try to discipline or even fire this person, they could potentially say that they weren’t aware of the rules because there’s nothing written down. The employee could have childcare or other caring responsibilities, and you could be leaving yourself open to an unfair dismissal claim if you tried to terminate their employment.

If you had a handbook detailing clear rules on time-keeping, you could clearly show that the employee had breached the terms of the policy, and they were well aware of what is expected.

So my advice is definitely get something in writing, and give it to employees when they start working for you. It’s also a good idea to get them to sign to say they have read and understood what’s in the handbook

What should be in your employee handbook?

The contents of an employee handbook can vary from business to business, but it should typically include:

• Equals opportunities policy
• Disciplinary procedures
• Grievance procedures
• Health and safety policy
• Sickness and absence policy-also dealing with maternity leave, paternity leave, and leave in special circumstances, such as bereavement
• Flexible Working policy
• Redundancy policy
• Drug and alcohol policy
• Staff email and internet policy
• Data Protection policy
• Whistleblowing policy
Situations may crop up that are not covered in the scope of the handbook, but more often than not, it will provide you with something to refer to so you can demonstrate what your policy is, and that it has not been followed if you need to confront an employee.

What are the benefits of having an employee handbook?

There are many benefits to your business, including:

• It lets employees know what you expect of them in terms of behaviour and performance
• It lays out the rules so you know what to do in (almost) every situation that crops up
• When policies are clearly laid out, it allows you to be consistent in your approach
• It allows you to show that all employees are treated equally
• It shows employees the proper procedure for complaints and grievances, which can reduce the potential for conflict and resentment in the workplace
• It’s an easy way to give new employees the information they need
• It can prevent you from breaching legislation, such as equal opportunities or discrimination laws.

So you have a handbook, now what?

You can produce the smartest-looking handbook, full of everything your employees need to know, but it’s only worth something if it’s used properly. Here’s what you need to do.

• Make sure every employee has a copy and that they’ve signed to say they have one
• Have a copy on your website or in a paper file so employees can’t plead ignorance of the rules
• Use the handbook to take action when you need to and deal with situations quickly as they arise
• Update the handbook regularly to reflect any policy changes and make sure employees know about it.

Need help managing people or managing change? I can help!
I work with UK small businesses owners, as a People Management & HR Specialist who can help you create your perfect team, solve difficult employee issues & develop great people management skills.

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