Handbooks, Policies and Procedures
Handbooks, or company manuals as they are sometimes known, are mostly a set of rules and procedures which you as an employee are expected to follow. Some of it may be contractually binding, some of it may not be. Equally, all of it may be binding or none of it. An Employee Handbook is a clear statement letting staff know whether it is intended to be contractually binding and, if so, which parts. That said, such a statement is not always definitive in an argument and a Tribunal can, in some circumstances, look at “custom and practice” and decide that a term labelled non-contractual is, in fact, contractual or vice versa. In the absence of an express statement, it is generally considered that anything conferring a right is a binding term and anything seemingly being just a guide is not.
An Employee Handbook can contain many things, useful information about the organisation that does not fit conveniently anywhere else, rules about equal opportunities, health and safety, uniform, handling company property or the use of computers, email and internet, information about time off for various reasons and matters concerning career development. It might also contain disciplinary and grievance procedures and procedures for making certain statutory requests, whistleblowing, data protection, requesting holiday and so forth.
The Handbook should be accessible both in terms of being able to get hold of a copy and in reading it. It should be clear, concise, indexed and written in language which is readily understandable. Indeed, translations might be appropriate for any staff for whom English is not a first language.
Updates are an important feature of Handbooks. Often these are forgotten about. They shouldn’t be. Handbooks contain a valuable source of information for staff and outdated policies and procedures can cause unnecessary confusion and argument. The Employer must be careful when amending the Handbook though if the amendment is significant and to a contractual term then notice and agreement (implied may be sufficient) must be obtained from the Employee. Often, however, a clause entitling the Employer to make minor changes without notification or consent is inserted to avoid absurdity.
If you need some help in understanding your handbook, your employer is seeking to change it without discussing it with you or something has gone wrong at work with which you need help, please call us on 020 8301 7777