|Employment Policies |
This article gives a brief outline of various policies which are necessary before setting up a business.
For what Business I need to Set up Employment Policies
You do not have to have a staff policy on every single aspect of your business. Indeed, some types of policy may be irrelevant or unhelpful.
However, if you have five or more employees, you are legally required to have written policies on certain issues - such as disciplinary and grievance procedures and health and safety.
In instances where there may be no legal requirement, it is still good practice to set out formal written policies so that workers understand what is expected of them and what they can expect in return. Policies also help to create a culture where issues are dealt with fairly and consistently.
What types of Policies I must set up?
The policies that you have will depend on the size and nature of your business. For example, if your staff operates machinery, it may be a good idea to implement a specific policy on drugs and alcohol use. If most of your staff uses computers most of the time, you should have an email and internet policy.
There are many benefits to having suitable employment policies in place. Setting standards is the key to healthy workplace relations. It can reduce the need for disciplinary and legal action. It may also increase productivity and morale, as well as help employee retention.
Clear policymaking can also be positive for your business' reputation externally, eg among clients and the local community. It can also help in attracting new staff.
Where to set out Policies
A policy can be part of your employee/company handbook or you could set it out in a separate document. You should make staff aware that your policies exist, particularly during the induction process, and make sure workers can easily access them if necessary, e.g. by having them pinned up on a noticeboard or put on the company intranet.
Policies on Working Time
A policy on working time and time off should cover a number of areas.
Leave and absence
Occasionally, your workers will want or need time off.
You are not obliged to offer overtime to your workers or require them to work it. However, any overtime policy should still set out the rules on overtime.
Encouraging work-life balance is important for your business. To achieve this, you should have policies on:
• parental leave
• flexible working
• maternity, adoption and paternity leave and pay
Health and Safety Policies
If you have five or more employees, you must by law have a written health and safety policy. The policy should set out:
• your general approach and objectives in relation to health and safety
• the arrangements you have in place for managing health and safety in your business
However, good health and safety practice means that you should not only have such a policy but also manage it in a way that benefits your business, workers, clients and local community.
Policies on Training and Performance Management
Having a training policy in place will enable you to plug any skills shortages in your workplace. This is beneficial to employees and will also have a positive impact on business performance.
A training policy can be implemented to allow employees to perform their current role more effectively or support them through a change in role.
Harassment and Bullying policy
Bullying and harassment in a workplace are serious matters, and employers are responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent such behaviour.
The anti-discrimination legislation makes it unlawful in employment or vocational training to harass someone on the grounds of:
• marital status
• gender reassignment
• sexual orientation
The Sex Discrimination Act also explicitly outlaws sexual harassment.
Bullying and harassment are unacceptable on moral grounds and may, if they are allowed to go unchecked or are badly handled, create serious problems for your business. Harassment is also against the law and can result in an employment tribunal or other civil claims against the employer and large awards in compensation.
Writing Staff Policies
When writing staff policies the main steps are:
• Preparing - collecting information, opinions and examining the options. Policies are more likely to be accepted if staff are involved in drawing them up. Involve unions, especially if you have collective agreements that specify they should be consulted, or existing elected employee representatives. Alternatively, set up a joint working group.
• Developing - policies should suit the specific needs of the business.
• Implementing - inform staff and provide training.
• Reviewing - this is to check that the policy is being used and is not damaging the business.
Check that your policies are not unlawfully discriminatory, e.g. in relation to pay or dress/appearance.
How to Communicate Policies to Staff?
Policies can be:
• displayed on noticeboards
• added to the company network or intranet
• communicated in presentations
• included in a staff handbook
• included in a collective agreement with a union
• emailed to staff
• sent as a letter to staff
Discipline and Grievance policies
You must tell each employee about:
• your disciplinary rules
• your disciplinary/dismissal and grievance procedure
• the name of the person to whom they should appeal if they are unhappy about a disciplinary or dismissal decision, or to seek redress for a grievance
If you fail to issue this information in writing, and one of your employees makes an employment tribunal case against you and wins, you may have to pay up to four weeks' wages on top of any other compensation the tribunal may award.
It's important that your disciplinary rules give examples of the types of behaviour that qualify as gross misconduct, e.g. fighting, bullying and stealing. If you find that an employee has committed an act of gross misconduct, you could be entitled to dismiss them immediately without notice or pay in lieu of notice.
You are required by law to set out your disciplinary rules and disciplinary and grievance procedures, in writing.
Changes to Policies
If you need to change a policy, check whether or not the change touches on any part of the policy that is contractual.
If so, you will need employees to agree to the changes, unless their contracts allow you to make such variations without it (typically terms in relation to working hours, place of work and duties).
If you fail to get employees' agreement, they may be entitled to sue for breach of contract, or resign and claim constructive dismissal.
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