Providing your employees with a Work Manual that includes both company policies and company procedures helps both your business and your employees. You might expect me to say that as I authored a publication on this subject.
Having a Work Manual helps set employee expectations about the company’s work environment and communicates corporate standards and procedures.
A Work Manual can be referred to or described as Office Manual, Employee Handbook, Policy and Procedures Manual… but, in essence, they are all the same thing.
A policy can be part of your employee/company handbook or you could set it out in a separate document. However, for your discipline and grievance policies, you must either set them out in the written statement or refer in the written statement to a place where the employee can read them, for example, on the company intranet.
A Work Manual can help your business increase professionalism and efficiency in the following ways:
• As a reference point for employees so that HR/managers do not have to repeatedly answer questions on policies or procedures.
• As a training tool that can be used to help with employee induction.
• As a guide for how your employees should deal with customers
• As a manual to improve the quality and consistency of service you provide to customers.
• As a means of clarifying who is responsible for specific tasks within the business.
• As a reference guide to help settle employee misunderstandings and avoid conflicts.
• By providing clear rules to protect your company from potential misuse of computer systems and IT resources.
• As evidence of company expectations should you need to dismiss an employee.
The benefits to employees and the business
A Work Manual doesn’t just help employers. Employees also like to know where they stand.
A Work Manual helps employees by:
• Providing clear guidelines on how to do their job and what is expected of them.
• Providing information on how an employee can expect to be dealt with by both the employer and other employees.
• Creating a culture where issues are dealt with fairly and consistently.
• Acting as a motivational tool by outlining the opportunities that are available to employees in terms of training, career advancement and flexible working practices.
• Setting policies that help identify and prevent potential risks to employees (e.g. health and safety/money laundering) and ensure that they comply with the law.
• Setting standards to reduce the need for disciplinary and legal action.
What should you include in the Office or Work Manual?
Here, I look at the policies, procedures and other information you should include in a Work Manual. Some key policies must be provided by law whilst others should be considered for best practice.
Work policies generally aren’t contractually binding unless they expressly state otherwise. However, terms of some policies could be seen as contractually binding via custom and practice, for example, where workers follow certain working practices or receive certain benefits over a significant period of time.
In those areas where having a policy is not a legal requirement, it’s still good practice to have one so that workers understand what you expect of them and what they can expect to get in return. Policies also help to create a culture where issues are dealt with fairly and consistently.
You don’t have to have a staff policy on every single aspect of your business. Indeed some types of policy may be irrelevant or unhelpful. However, you are legally required to have written policies on certain things such as disciplinary and grievance procedures and health and safety (if you have five or more employees).
Table 1 shows the policies which are a legal requirement and which are not.
It also makes good business sense to set out your expectations on more general company policies such as confidentiality, ownership of copyright and designs, dress code and use of company facilities.
The policies that you implement will depend on the size and nature of your business: different policies will be more relevant to some businesses than others.
What policies should you adopt?
The policies that you have will depend on the size and nature of your business. For example, if your employees operate machinery, it may be a good idea to implement a specific policy on drugs and alcohol use. If most of your employees use computers most of the time, you should have an e-mail and internet policy.
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, e.g. among clients and the local community. It can also help in attracting new staff.
NOTE: It is a legal requirement to set out your health and safety policy in writing if you have five or more employees. It is also a legal requirement to set out your disciplinary rules and discipline and grievance procedures in writing.
The Work Manual
The Work Manual should include the work policies and procedures that have been prepared in accordance with employment legislation and that form part of the terms of employment for each employee.
The policies and procedures should be regularly reviewed to ensure that they comply with current legislation and regulations. It should be made clear how any changes to the manual will be notified, for example via e-mail or via the company’s Intranet.
The manual should include a statement that makes clear that the policies and procedures are not intended to be contractual commitments, that no policy is intended as a guarantee of continuity of benefits or rights and that no permanent employment or employment for any term is intended or can be implied from any statements in the Work Manual.
Consideration should be given to inclusion of the following sections.
Introduction to the Company
This section should provide an introduction to the company and its culture followed by information on the following areas where appropriate to the company’s business:
• The Company’s history
• Partners, Directors and Associates
• Company Objectives/Mission
• Sources of Technical Support
• Organisation Chart
• Intranet details (and the Client/Customer Extranet)
• Statement of Growth, Profit, and Business Plan
• Statement of Commitment to Employees
• Continuity of Policies – Right to Change or Discontinue
At the end of this section there should be an acknowledgment of receipt that each employee should sign. They should then retain a copy of the manual for their records.
This section should include a description of the range of services that the company offers or the products it sells. For example, for an accountancy firm these may include audit, accountancy, taxation, business consultancy, insolvency and other services.
This section should provide all policies that relate to employment. Where appropriate, employees should sign their agreement to certain policies. It should, in my view, include information on the following areas where appropriate to the company’s business:
|• Recruitment Policy
• Recruitment of Future Directors and Employees
• Announcement of New Positions
• Employee Selection Process
• Making an Employment Offer
• Induction Procedure – New Employees
• Employee Leaving Checklist
• Eligibility to Work in the UK
• Disability Discrimination Act
• Equal Opportunity Policy
• Rehiring of Former Employees
• Employment of Relatives
• Return to Work after Serious Injury or Illness
|• Confidentiality of the Firm’s Information
• Conflict of Interest
• Policy on Whistleblowing at Work
• Medical Evaluations and Interviews
• Disability Accommodation
• Outside Employment
• Sickness or Injury
• Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures
• Gratuities to Government Employees or Officials
• Gratuities to Customers or Suppliers
• Inventions, Patents and Copyright
• Career Development
• Employee Feedback
Employment Status & Records
This section should provide all policies that relate to employment status. It should include information on the following areas where appropriate to the company’s business:
• Undertaking Other Duties
• Changes – in types and levels of employment
• Anniversary Date (for review purposes)
• Reinstatement – after Redundancy or after Voluntary Registration
• Retirement Policy
• Flexible Working Policies
• Employment Classifications – Regular Full-Time, Regular Part-Time and Temporary Employees
• Access to Personnel Files
• Background Checks
• Performance Review and Salary Merit
• Job Descriptions and Standard Profiles
• Equal Pay Policies
• Provision of references to prospective new employers
This section should provide details of the policies that relate to employee benefits.
This section should provide all policies that relate to payroll.
Workplace Guidelines and Information
This section should provide all the policies that relate to the workplace.
This section should provide all policies that relate to computer and IT matters.
Dealing with Clients/Customers
This section should provide all policies that relate to client/customer contact.
This section should provide all policies that relate to financial procedures.
Administration and Sundry Matters
This section should provide all policies that relate to administration and other sundry matters.
IT Self-Analysis Questionnaire
This section can be used by an employee to record their level of expertise in the IT software used by the company. It should include a list of the common functions the employee will need to undertake as part of their job.
Introducing new policies
If you are planning to introduce a new policy, you should consider the following:
• What is the purpose of the policy?
• Have you consulted with managers, workers and their representatives?
• Has someone been given overall responsibility for the policy?
• How are you going to communicate the policy to all workers?
• Have you given workers enough notice about the new policy?
• Have you thought through the potential cost of the policy?
• Does the policy change anyone’s employment contract?
• How are you going to monitor and maintain the policy?