Employee Handbook

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This "Brief Guide" gives information on the Employee Handbook or Staff Handbook including list of policies and procedures required by law, those recommended highly so as to enable a company to defend itself and finally, discretionary policies. This document can be downloaded at http://www.collierbroderick.ie/Services/HR%20Compliance/Employee%20Handbook.asp

Published in: Business, Technology

Employee Handbook

  1. 1. Brief Guide to Policies & Procedures (This is a brief guide only and should not be considered as a comprehensive guide to an employer’s contractual obligations)
  2. 2. Prepared by CollierBroderick Management Consultants Tel: +353 1 8666426 Fax: +353 1 8666457 E-mail: enquiries@collierbroderick.ie Web: www.collierbroderick.ie Disclaimer Whilst every care has been taken by CollierBroderick Management Consultants to ensure that the information contained in this guide is accurate and up-to-date, as the guide is for information purposes, the contents of these pages should not be relied upon as a substitute for your own independent HR or legal advice. We recommend that you always consult a suitably qualified HR or legal professional on any specific matter before relying on any information in this guide. No responsibility or liability is accepted by or on behalf of CollierBroderick Management Consultants or anyone associated with its production for any errors or omissions in the guide, nor for any use the information may be put to.
  3. 3. A Guide to Policies and Procedures Background and Introduction Having good policies and procedures in the workplace that are clearly written and understandable and that have been clearly communicated to all staff is the best defence against an employee challenge on matters of procedures or specific issues. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of what employees did or allegedly did, if the employer does not have policies and procedures in place, these policies and procedures have not been communicated to employees and / or if the employer has failed to followed these policies and procedures, then the outcome of any case is likely to favour the employee. While many policies and procedures are required by law (or backed heavily by legislation, statutory instruments, codes of practice and / or registered collective agreements), there are also many other highly recommended and optional policies that are company specific i.e. it is at the discretion of the company whether or not it wishes to implement a policy to govern and inform staff on certain aspects of their employment. For example, some businesses that handle a lot of information and use IT equipment will have a different set of policies and emphasis than those primary engaged with manufacturing products. The following is a guide to the underlying principles of preparing, communicating and updating employee policies and procedures. Objective The main objectives in writing employee policies and procedures for your organisation are to: • Communicate clearly employees rights and entitlements, what is expected of the employee, what is not acceptable behaviour and what will happen in the event of a breach of company policy and procedures; • Ensure that policies and procedures are aligned with up to date legislation, codes of best practice, custom and practice and in employee contracts in particular • Write the policies and procedures so that they can be easily understood by all staff and management; • Ensure all employees are aware of the organisation’s policies and procedures and of any changes made to them over time Approach and Methods The preparation of policies and procedures should follow a participative approach with the involvement of employees, the employer and HR Consultant. For some policies which may be very technical - such as in the case of IT or money laundering - these must be prepared in association with knowledgeable and experienced persons. Where employee forums or trade union recognition exists, these parties should be involved from the outset in the preparation of the policies and procedures. Page 3 of 9
  4. 4. Structure The policies themselves will comprise the main body of the text. They are likely to be introduced with a welcoming note from the Managing Director/Chief Executive. A further introductory note explains the purpose of the policies etc. The other main item included is an acknowledgement form which is a statement that the employee has received, read and understands the contents of the policies. It is not practical or desirable to try to cover everything in policies and procedures as this would give rise to a very large document that would be unworkable. Some policies must be included as they are required by law, some others are highly recommended based on best practice and others are desirable depending on organisation. The following is a list of those that are essential (required by law), highly recommended and desirable. Essential Policies • Grievance • Disciplinary & Dismissal • Respect & Dignity at Work / Bullying & Harassment • Sick Leave & Sick Pay (Including Short-Term & Long term Sickness) • Misuse (Abuse) of Substance / Drugs and Alcohol Highly Recommended Policies • Holiday Leave • Public Holidays • Maternity Leave • Paternity Leave • Adoptive Leave • Parental Leave • Force Majeure Leave • Carers Leave • Bereavement/Funeral Leave • Compassionate Leave • Jury Leave • Office Telephone and Mobile Phone Use • Punctuality & Attendance / Timekeeping, Attendance & Unauthorised Absence • Internet • Email • IT Usage • Dress Code, Grooming & Personal Hygiene / PPE/Safety • Equality of Opportunity • Health & Safety (policy, not a Safety Statement) • Use of Company Vehicles • Use of Own Vehicles for Work Other Policies • Wedding Leave Page 4 of 9
  5. 5. • Blogging • Equal Status • Expenses, Travel & Subsistence • Time Off in Lieu / Overtime / Both • Flexible Working Hours • E-working / Working from Home • Lone Working • Accident / Incident Reporting & Investigation • Professional Workplace Behaviour • Smoking • Gifts and Hospitality • Training & Education Funding & Study Leave • Confidentiality • Data Protection • Use of CCTV • Relationship / Dating in the Workplace • Good Faith reporting / Whistle-Blowing Policy • Company Benefits • Good Office Practice • Handling Client Cash / Money • Purchasing Policy • Timesheets Policy • Garda Vetting • Company / Client Property • Breaks and Lunch • Recruitment & Selection • Induction • Probation • Performance Bonus Scheme • Performance Management • Information & Consultation • References • Exit Interviews Whilst it is important to spell out what is acceptable and not in policies and procedures, care needs to be taken in drafting not to be too rigid or try to be too exhaustive. For example, if certain behaviours are listed as gross misconduct and the caveat is not included that the list is indicative and not exhaustive then the employer is likely to be restricted to the listed items. Furthermore, in addition to the above policies and procedures (whatever combination a company chooses), it is recommended that the Employee Handbook include an “Acknowledgement Form” which is signed by each employee confirming that they have received, read and understood the policies and procedures of the company. Consistency It is important that there is consistency between the employee policy and procedures and other related document especially the employee’s contract of employment. Inconsistency can arise on matters such as retirement ages, probationary periods, bonus payments, expenses, sick pay or in relation to leave entitlements. It is important to explicitly state that Page 5 of 9
  6. 6. where there is inconsistency, which document (usually the contract of employment) will take precedence. If the policies and procedures are part of the employee’s contractual terms, then this should be referenced in the employment contract. Likewise if some of the policies and procedures are contractual, then this should be stated explicitly in the policies. Another aspect of consistency is that policies and procedures should be applied consistently across different sites within of the same country. The application of policies and procedures across countries needs to take account of the employment legislation within the country where it is applied. Therefore, where appropriate, it is recommended that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to guide managers be developed in conjunction with policies and procedures. Communication Once the policies and procedures have been finalised, it is good practice to launch it with a strong communication strategy. This may include using the usual main channels of communication but within the organisation as well as special initiatives such as facilitated presentations of the handbook. Policies and procedures may be sizeable documents up to 100 pages and some of the more complex policies therein may need elaboration and explanation. It is critical that all staff are provided with or have access to the handbook and understand its contents. It is recommended that each staff sign an acknowledgement that they have been made aware of the handbook so that in the event of a dispute down the line, they can’t argue they were not aware of the policy or procedure. Where there is a diverse workforce, it is recommended that the handbook and related documents are made available in their first language. This is particularly important for key policies, contracts of employment and health and safety documents such as the Safety Statement. Updating Policies Over time, it is important to keep the organisation handbook up to date with changes in legislation, best practice and codes of practice. Changes and updates to the employee handbook need to be communicated to staff also. As such, it is recommended that an “Audit Tracking Sheet” be incorporated into the Employee Handbook so as to clearly show what changes have been made to policies and procedures over time and when these changes came into effect. Furthermore, it is recommended to retain all versions of the handbook so that in the event of a hearing or litigation it will be possible to produce the handbook which applied at the time. Consequences of Breaching Policies Page 6 of 9
  7. 7. Policies and procedures should be explicit in relation to the consequences of breaching policies and procedure. Previous cases before Employment Appeal Tribunals and the Labour Court found that although the employee breached organisation policies and decided in favour of the employee because the policies did not spell out what would happen in the case of a breach of policy. Policies must also state that the employer has the right to suspend the employee on full pay pending the outcome of any investigation or disciplinary procedure arising from a suspected breach of the policy. Format Very often policies and procedures are contained in the “Staff Handbook”, “Employee Handbook” or “Staff Manual” which is given to new joiners. Updates and revisions would also be issued to employees as the need arises. In many cases they are also made available on company intranets and distributed to staff via e-mail. Conclusions Employers should have well thought out and comprehensive policies in place. These policies and procedures should be: • Workable • Easy to understand • Clear and consistent Employers should be able to show that the employment policies were communicated to all employees, independent contractors and third parties as necessary. Doing so will ensure that they are better placed to initiate disciplinary action in respect of certain conduct or circumstances. Policies and procedures should be reviewed regularly to keep them updated and in line with best practice. Page 7 of 9
  8. 8. For Consultation Services relating to HR, Employment Law, Contract of Employment, Policies and Procedures and Employee Handbooks Contact Helena Broderick Managing Consultant Tel: +353 1 8666426 Mob: + 353 87 9074843 E-mail: hbroderick@collierbroderick.ie Services are available nationwide through our team of experienced HR practitioners and employment law consultants Web: www.collierbroderick.ie Page 8 of 9
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