The lead up to Christmas can be a bit of an HR minefield. Absence, sickness, expenses and office socialising are all potentially at their highest over the next few weeks. And you’d be wise to check over and circulate your HR policies now so everyone knows what is and is not acceptable in your organisation. Remember that in specifying the boundaries in your workplace you are protecting your employees as well as telling them where the line is….
But writing policies and procedures can be tricky in this day and age. You could spend hours writing and tweaking policies for your business – whatever its size. Online you will find a plethora of policy templates. As a small company though, you don’t necessarily need all of these. You should only put policies in place that are going to be used. Having a policy for the sake of it is pointless! Write policies which are meaningful and stand by them.
Surprisingly there are only 3 policies that are required by law.
- Disciplinary and Dismissal Policy
- Grievance Policy
- Health and Safety Policy (if you have over 5 employees)
There are also a number of policies that you should provide because they have legal minimum requirements.
|Pay||Legally you must pay your employees at least the National Minimum wage and ensure Equal Pay; you must also provide an itemised pay statement and not make any unauthorised deductions from employees pay|
|Equal Opportunities||Legally you must not discriminate against staff or allow harassment and bullying and you must make reasonable adjustments for staff in the work-place if they are disabled|
|Working Hours and Overtime including rest-breaks and holidays||Legally you must comply with Working Time Regulations provisions for employees and workers|
|Sickness policy and unauthorised/authorised absence||Legally you must make statutory sick pay payments to employees and allow them time off for dependant emergencies, Jury Service etc.|
|Maternity, Adoption, Paternity Leave, Parental Leave and Shared Parental leave||You must make statutory maternity / adoption / paternity payments to employees and give the appropriate leave|
|Flexible Working||You must consider all employees flexible working requests|
There are few other policies that you could consider to ensure consistency within your business. Policies that may well seem all the more relevant with Christmas round the corner:
- Personal e-mail / Internet Usage
- Alcohol/Drugs In The Workplace
- Dress Codes
- Data Protection
There are no legal guidelines for these policies and they can be designed around the needs of your business. For example, no smoking (including e-cigarettes) other than during lunch hour.
Where Do I Start?
When it comes to writing policies copious content is not king. There are millions of pages of policies & procedures rotting away completely unused in filing cabinets and shared network folders that will attest to this fact. Don’t get fooled into thinking that you need a policy for every eventuality – you don’t. And in fact, too many draconian policies can be restrictive to a small business that is growing.
The types of policies that you need depend on your business type: If your employees operate heavy machinery then you should consider putting in a Drugs & Alcohol Usage Policy but if you are an accountancy firm then this policy is unlikely to be a priority for you.
It is essential to create realistic employment policies – and enforce them. Using a policy to pay lip service to health and safety or treating employees fairly is not enough. If the worst happens and a problem ends up in court or at an employment tribunal, you’ll need to be able to show that you put your company policies into practice.
Communication Is Key
Policies can be part of your employee/company handbook or you can set them out in a separate document. However, for your discipline and grievance policies, you must either set them out in a written statement of main terms and conditions of employment or refer in a written statement to a place where the employee can read them, such as the company intranet.
You should ensure that you make staff aware that your policies exist. The best time to do this is during the induction process (which doesn’t have to be a 3 day off site event but can be something as simple as a checklist to ensure that a new employee to your company has all the relevant information that they need). You should also make sure that employees can easily access policies if necessary, by having them pinned up on a noticeboard for example or, again, on the company intranet.
Contractual Or Not?
Policies generally aren’t contractually binding unless they expressly state otherwise. However, the terms of some policies could be seen as contractually binding through custom and practice e.g. where employees follow certain working practices or receive certain benefits over a significant period of time. You need to be conscious of this as ultimately it will be up to an Employment Tribunal to decide on the contractual nature of policies if a claim were ever to be brought against your company.
Policies are never finished and you must ensure that you regularly review your policies and procedures to ensure that they are up to date, reflect the needs of the business and reflect any legislative changes.
Effective Company Policies
Whatever your policies cover, you should follow 2 essential principles to make a company policy effective.
1 – Make sure any policy is clear
2 – Make sure that any policy is communicated to employees. Unless employees understand a policy it will not work.
You do not want to tie yourself or your managers up with too many rules as this will only prove to be restrictive to day to day operations. Equally policies and procedures must be realistic, meaningful and be something that you and your management team are prepared to stand by. There is no point in stating that persistent lateness is a disciplinary offence and then not disciplining the one employee who is late every Monday morning. This type of approach will only lead employees to the conclusion that policies are meaningless, making them almost impossible for you to enforce.
theHRhub – on line and on demand HR support for startups and SMEs
For further advice and support on policy implementation, sign up to theHRhub today.