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Employee Handbooks – What should they contain?

One of my favourite pastimes is to read employee handbooks. Well ok, not favourite but I do find them fascinating.

Much of my work involves finding out about, or crafting new, policies and often they are contained in an employee handbook. These are mostly available online these days, although some organisations prefer to continue giving their people hard copies.

The variety of styles has never been so huge. There are the 2 pagers, the 157 pagers and everything in between. Although employment policies are considered dry, there is much scope for stylistic differences and bringing elements of your company values and culture into the presentation and language.

Whether you prefer an informal style with pictures and casual language or a more traditional, version with sections and sub-sections, the content is important. A good starting point for employment policies is to understand your legal obligations as an employer. And for your employees to understand them too. Even the most basic handbook will have policies for holiday and maternity leave. For something better than basics I would expect to find enhanced policies such as company sick pay and the right to request flexible working available to everyone. Additionally, there are some industry specific policies, for example, shift work or bonus structures.

There is a view that policies are restrictive and for organisations that like to do things differently in business, they want to mirror that internally too.   An employee handbook can be as prescriptive or flexible as you make it. There is no set format anymore. As long as the content is clear and easily accessible, you can start with a blank page and tailor it to your brand.

When putting together an employee handbook, I like to work in a partnership with clients to find out what’s important to them. Of course, I offer an HR Consultant’s perspective but essentially your handbook is your own.

So, what does your handbook look like? Is it fit for purpose? Which parts do you like and dislike?

If you’d like any advice about improving, amending or putting together an employee handbook from scratch do not hesitate to contact me.

By Claire Carson