Employee handbooks and policy documents

By Tolley in partnership with Emilie Bennetts at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP
Employment_tax_img2

The following Employment Tax guidance note by Tolley in partnership with Emilie Bennetts at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP provides comprehensive and up to date tax information covering:

  • Employee handbooks and policy documents
  • Contents of employee handbooks
  • Contractual force
  • Determining which parts of an employee handbook are potentially contractual
  • Determining which terms of a handbook are apt for incorporation into contract
  • Amending employee handbooks
  • Policy documents
  • Amending policy documents
  • Non-contractual rights from policy documents

Note: the case references in this guidance note are all subscription sensitive.

Certain aspects of the employment relationship have to be included within a written statement of employment that is given to the employee. See the Written statement of particulars (terms and conditions) guidance note.

Other terms must be put in writing, but only need to be 'reasonably accessible' to the employee. The employer can choose whether to include them in the written statement or to have them as separate documents, as a group of policy documents, or to put them into an employee handbook. They are:

  • disciplinary and grievance rules and procedures
  • notice periods
  • sickness absence and pay
  • terms as to pensions and pension schemes

ERA 1996, s 2(2) and (3)

There is no requirement to have an employee handbook but the advantage of using one is that it can deal with a wide variety of aspects of the company's rules and culture, rather than simply focusing on the contractual rights of the individual employee. It can also present rules and policies in a less legalistic way which may be easier for the employee to understand. It is mandatory to have a written health and safety policy if the employer employs five or more people.

Contents of employee handbooks

If an employer decides to have a handbook, this can include:

  • policy documents, such as disciplinary and grievance rules, rules governing holiday and holiday pay, sickness absence and sick pay, and policies on equality or equal opportunities, flexible working policy or whistleblowing
  • rules and procedures for the smooth and efficient running of the business, such as a

More on Employment contracts: