Policies and Procedures – how many is too many?
All employers understand the importance of having certain policies and procedures in place for effective staff management and to protect the business against potential claims. The expectation for employers to have comprehensive and regularly updated policies can be overwhelming, and maintaining a balance between ensuring that the staff handbook contains relevant policies and avoiding a document covering all possible scenarios can be difficult to achieve.
Currently, employers are legally required to have the following written policies in place:
- Disciplinary procedures and rules
- Grievance procedures
- Information about pensions (if not in the contract of employment)
- Health and safety (if 5 or more employees)
- Whistleblowing (in some cases)
These policies need to be fully adhered, as a failure to follow them could lead to consequences in the event of an employment tribunal claim. For example, if a company has failed to follow its disciplinary procedure, and an employee succeeds with a claim, any award granted by the employment tribunal could be increased by up to 25%.
It is also advisable for employers to have certain policies that can help avoid civil or criminal liability, including Bribery, Equal Opportunities and Data Protection. Most employers also include policies related to Sickness, Holidays and Maternity/Paternity leave.
There is an extensive range of additional policies that an employer could have, if it chose to do so.
Some additional policies can be very useful. A written monitoring policy can be valuable to ensure that the employer is permitted to monitor an employee’s e-mails and website use without contravening an employee’s right to privacy. There are also certain policies that are appropriate for certain work activities, for example a noise policy for employees who work in particularly loud environments.
However, an over-reliance on policies could cause difficulties if they replace a common sense and proportionate approach to certain issues that may arise. The aim of the staff handbook should be to provide useful guidance, not to cause confusion and concern to those consulting them or to stifle the development of management and HR skills. It is also important that the handbook does not contain anything that should properly be set out in the contract of employment, for example probation periods or restrictive covenants.
Rather than creating and maintaining a time-consuming handbook full of policies that are unlikely to ever be used, a tailored approach will mean a more accessible and straightforward document that employers can rely upon to assist with potentially difficult or contentious situations.
At EGL we take time to listen and ensure that the handbook we produce is specific to the needs of your business, rather than a “catch all” standard document that is cumbersome and superfluous.
If you would like further information in respect of the above or in relation to any employment query, please contact Elaine Howard or Fabienne McAllister using the links on their profile pages or the Contact Us section.