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In our last article, we looked very briefly at what makes a good employer as the precursor for a series of follow-up articles covering a wide variety of employment areas and issues.
In this, the second article of the series, we will commence our journey through these areas and issues, helping business owners to take a step ahead in terms of achieving the distinction of being considered a good employer.
We will start this journey by taking a look at contracts, policies and procedures.
By law, there are certain documents that an employer must provide to an employee. These include, for example, written minimum terms and conditions of employment and both a discipline and grievance procedure. However, there are many more documents that, whilst not legally obliged to do so, an employer can develop to enhance the relationship with its employees.
Every employee has a Contract of Employment with his or her employer, although it might not be (and doesn’t have to be) in writing. There is, though, a requirement to provide employees with a written statement of their main employment terms within two months of starting work.
It is generally considered best to include these main employment terms in the form of a written Contract of Employment. This document can contain additional clauses to the statutory minimum and by ensuring that all these terms are in writing alleviates any doubt further down the line should issues arise between employer and employee.
Having produced the general terms of employment, the company should ideally set out clearly its various rules and policies. The ideal format for these is an Employment Handbook.
This is an excellent place to bring together employment and job-related information which employees need to know, such as holiday arrangements, company rules and disciplinary and grievance procedures. It can also provide useful source of information to new staff as part of the induction process. A written Employment Handbook gives clear advice to employees and creates a culture where issues are dealt with fairly and consistently.
Following the theme of being fair and consistent, it is vitally important for the employer to set out clearly in writing its various policies and how it expects these to be implemented.
Whilst the Employment Handbook will ideally set the scene with short policy statements, it is recommended that the actual Policies and Procedures are set out, in full, either as appendices to the Handbook or, more likely, in a separate Policies and Procedures Manual.
In addition to the mandatory grievance and disciplinary policies, it is considered good practice to include policies on subjects such as equal opportunities, harassment, smoking and family friendly policies covering maternity, paternity and parental leave.
In a generic Employment Handbook and/or Policies and Procedures Manual we would recommend a minimum of 22 different policies as a starting point. These would be tailored to suit each employer and there may be further, additional policies required depending upon the size and nature of the business.
Ensuring that these documents are in place – and are robust – will serve two main purposes. Firstly, it provides a set of rules and guidelines so that all employees know what they can – and can’t – do. More importantly, if they are followed fairly and consistently, this will not only create a much happier working environment but will have the added bonus of reducing the number of issues that are likely to arise – saving you, the employer, in terms of both valuable time and the resultant stress.