Are Employee Handbooks Legally Binding?

Employee handbooks are useful for your employees in providing them with the right policies to ensure they follow specific regulations in the workplace.

author

James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.

Date

07 August 2018

Updated

11 July 2024
2 min read
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Are Employee Handbooks Legally Binding?
3:18

An Employee Handbook Should Be Non-Contractual

It is advisable to ensure that your Employee Handbook is ‘non-contractual’.

Your employees should not be providing a signature in relation to the Employee Handbook. Please note, that this is different from the Contract of Employment.

If the Employee Handbook is contractual, you cannot legally change Policies without either the consent of staff or by going through a formal consultation process which would be too burdensome given how quickly the law can change.

 

Employment Rights Act 1996

As a business owner, you will no doubt be aware that under section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (‘ERA’), you are obliged to provide employees with a Statement of Main Terms and Conditions within 8 weeks (a day 1 right as of 06/04/2020) of their starting employment with you, and the ERA sets out what must be included in those terms and conditions.While you are not legally obliged to provide employees with the majority of Policies and Procedures, you should provide staff with guidance as to what you expect from them regarding conduct and performance during their employment.

These would usually be set out in an Employee Handbook.

 

Employee Handbook Policies & Procedures

There are a number of Policies that you should consider including in your Employee Handbook, such as Internet Use, Social Media Guidelines, Bribery as well as Family Friendly Policies such as maternity, paternity, parental leave and adoption but to name a few.The difficulty is with these types of Policies, is that legislation is continuously changing and as a result of that.

You need to be able to update your Policies to ensure compliance as and when the need arises.

 

The Employee Handbook Should Be Used As Guidance

Nonetheless, just because your contract is non-contractual does not mean that employees are not bound to follow the rules and procedures set out in your handbook.The handbook should be used as guidance for employees not only for how they should conduct themselves at work, but also explain to them the procedures they should follow if they want to make any requests to you as their employer.

 

What Goes In An Employee Handbook?

Equal Opportunities Policy, Internet, Social Media and Email use, Maternity and Parental Leave among others. Generally, all areas where the employer wishes to detail particular office procedures go in the Employee Handbook.

These documents are important because they result in policies being applied consistently throughout the organisation and remove any doubt as to the particular provisions which apply.

At a minimum, you should have disciplinary and grievance procedures setting out how such matters will be addressed during employment.

Policies to include:

  • Equal Opportunities;
  • Anti-Harassment and Bullying;
  • Capability (unless addressed in your disciplinary procedure);
  • Whistleblowing;
  • Sickness Absence;
  • Family Rights (including maternity, paternity, parental leave, etc.);
  • Health and Safety;
  • No Smoking (e-cigarette policy);
  • Electronic Information and Communications Systems;
  • Data Protection;
  • Social Media;
  • Redundancy;
  • Retirement;
  • Bribery;
  • Holiday.

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