How to create employee handbook in line with UK Employment Law?

by Paul Whitaker on September 26, 2013

When a new employee starts in a business, one of the first items they should be provided with is the Company Handbook. Not only is this a legally required document, but it also promotes the business in a positive light and helps to build the employer / employee relationship. What are the benefits of a well-written handbook and what elements should it include?

NOTE: You can also now see our guide to some of the best employment lawyers in the US here (UK version to follow in due course).

Why should You Have a Company Handbook?

An employee handbook is a requirement of employment law, but it also serves a range of other purposes. Those companies which take the time to invest in their employees and the management of their business activities will be the ones that reap all the rewards. By having a handbook a company can not only increase the overall productivity of people within the business, but it can also benefit from good retention rates and be seen as a place where people want to work.

Company handbooks let everybody within the business know where they stand on policies, procedures and responsibilities. When a new employee starts within the business they are provided with a contract of employment, but a handbook can cover areas in much greater depth.

They can be helpful for new employees, giving them a positive impression of the company. It shows that they’re a valued member of the team and that their employer takes the time to communicate messages clearly to their staff. A handbook can help them to see where the business started and where it is heading, expressing its vision for the future, as well as how they fit in to the overall structure. This will create a more productive, positive and loyal workforce.

An informative, up-to-date handbook can be useful for businesses that have to deal with unfair dismissal, discrimination or harassment cases. Usually the first piece of information a legal team will request is the company handbook, as this will provide them with details of any policies that are in place to deal with such issues. If a business doesn’t have one or it’s out of date, it can reflect badly on the company.

What to Include in a Company Handbook?

There’s no single authoritative template for a company handbook, as all businesses are different. However, for any company it’s a good way of putting all its policies and procedures in one place, so all employees know where to find the relevant information. It should have a clear and concise format, with associated details grouped together. Some details really ought to be included, but these can be adapted to suit a business’ requirements.

The employee handbook should include details of absence and sickness policies, as well as information pertaining to maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, adoption leave and flexible working procedures. Within the handbook employees can be informed of disciplinary and grievance procedures, the equal opportunities policy and anti-harassment and bullying measures.

With the rise in digital communications, it’s important that company handbooks cover exactly what’s expected of employees. The document should set out the policies on personal use of telephones, computer equipment, emails and the Internet. With the increased use of social media, there also needs to be a section on accessing these within company time.

Other details that can be added to the handbook include data protection policy, return-to-work procedures, information on the use of company cars, dress codes and any pension or share schemes. For employment data booklet 2013 click here.

Paul Whitaker
I am a partner and head of the firm’s dispute resolution department. I specialise in commercial litigation, property and employment disputes. I have 25 years litigation experience and have acted in a wide variety of commercial disputes, many of them complex and for high stakes. My clients want no-nonsense advice and robust support in helping them resolve their dispute and reach a successful outcome. They expect me, as a partner, to lead the team from the front and be involved in all aspects of the work. I always try to find the best commercial solution by the shortest route possible, which in many cases means reaching a settlement rather than simply pursuing the matter through the courts. I am an experienced negotiator and accredited commercial mediator as well as workplace mediator and member of the Solent & Wessex Mediation Group.

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