When a new client asked me to prepare some employee contracts for his team, I suggested that I should also draw up an Employee Handbook. It is not yet a requirement of UK employment law to provide an Employee Handbook, but it is considered best practice.

My top 3 reasons for small businesses to invest in providing an Employee Handbook are:

1)  It sets out the detail of organisational procedures and practices

An employer can provide far more detail of their organisational procedures and practices than it is practical to include in an employment contract. Provided to the employee along with their employment contract, it is to be read in conjunction with the employment contract and has clauses that provide further information about their rights and responsibilities. It is a useful reference guide for the employee and should be updated by the employer as policies evolve.

2)  It sets the tone for the Employer – Employee relationship

The Employee Handbook should support the legal contract as a ‘welcome’ document. The use of language, style and tone should reflect the employer’s brand, and the content may include some company information and state the values and mission of the business. This document sets out the employer’s expectations of the employee, and it is believed that this transparency encourages an alignment of the employee with the business in a way that can lead to greater engagement and productivity.

3)  There will be no surprises at a later date

Despite every best intention, at some point all employers will experience a difficult situation with one of their employees. By clearly setting out all processes in the Employer Handbook, including the more difficult topics of disciplinary and grievance procedures, both employer and employee have a clear understanding of what will happen should the relationship breakdown.

It was this third point that confirmed to my client that the investment had been worthwhile.

Within just a few weeks of a new employee signing his contract and acknowledging receipt of the Employee Handbook, the employer contacted me in a concerned state regarding some potentially unacceptable behaviour by the employee. I referred my client to the disciplinary procedure we had set out, and which we then followed step by step, through investigation and consultation, until the situation was resolved.

It was reassuring to have the process already set out and for the clarity it brought in a distressing situation. We were able to refer the employee to the relevant paragraphs so that he too understood the process that we would follow. Unfortunately the employer – employee relationship had to be terminated in this case, but it was done as smoothly and calmly as possible after following the appropriate process. This allowed both employer and employee to maintain maximum dignity in difficult circumstances.

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