7 March 2022

Employees often require guidance from human resources representatives on various matters relating to behaviour, entitlements, or even company procedures. A staff handbook is therefore a crucial tool which any skill-savvy HR representative should ensure to have in place.

Staff handbooks provide the employer with a perfect springboard to introduce the business, principles and ethos of the entity to current and new employees alike, providing them with an understanding of what the company expects of them at the outset, in terms of performance and behaviour. For instance, employees who are regularly tasked with client-facing roles may be directed as to the manner in which they should address clients, deal with issues, and also how to present themselves on the floor in terms of dress and appearance. They can also go further in regulating employee behaviour in terms of touching upon matters including bullying, harassment and also discrimination, whilst also going into matters relating to how the company deals with such issues and what an employee can expect in case an incident of this nature arises.

Handbooks prove useful in guiding employees as to certain procedures implemented by the company, ranging from simplistic ones such as how to apply for leave and the conditions attached thereto, to rather more complex matters such as how to submit a complaint or how the company aims to deal with disciplinary matters. Transparency is key and therefore issues like these had better be regulated upfront, rather than finding oneself in a sticky situation without a solid procedural basis upon which to move forward.

All in all, a handbook can contain anything you set your mind on, ranging from behavioural policies, to procedures regulating company operations and also more specific industry-oriented policies and procedures which you may require. What is most essential however, is to ensure that your handbook is properly drafted, with the adequate safeguards afforded to the employer, ensuring that the document is both watertight, whilst simultaneously affording flexibility wherever required. Handbooks are often a crucial element when industrial litigation arises, and may therefore help the employer to prove his case when called upon to do so. Last but not least it is important to cater for policies and procedures which fulfil your compliance obligations, for example those dealing with data protection, including but not limited to the Privacy Standard and Employee Privacy Notice. Even though not  legally obligatory it is always advisable to have a procedure dealing with discipline. It is also strongly recommended to have policies covering equality, diversity and harassment/sexual harassment.