Essential Policies

Contents:

  1. Staff handbooks
  2. Disciplinary and grievance policies
  3. Equal opportunities
  4. Maternity/Paternity/Shared Parental Leave
  5. Whistle-blowing policies
  6. Contracts of employment

Staff handbooks

It is good practice for employers to supplement their employees’ contracts of employment with other policies and procedures which are combined to form a staff handbook. The policies contained within the staff handbook can provide additional detail to clauses found within employee contracts i.e. disciplinary and grievance. They also cover mandatory topics such as maternity policies which can be contractual or non-contractual.

Whilst it is not yet a legal requirement to set out your business’s terms of employment in a staff handbook however it is the recommended practice and something which is advocated by ACAS and the Tribunals. For instance, failure to comply with the ACAS Code of Practice on grievance and disciplinary procedures can result in a 25% uplift on compensation awarded at an Employment Tribunal.

Additionally, if a staff members takes their employer to Tribunal, in most cases, the content of the staff handbook and accompanying policies will fall under scrutiny leaving employers open to judicial criticism. Therefore, it is essential that businesses have watertight and compliant staff handbooks.

There are many statutory requirements that employers are under a duty to comply with which is why it is essential for employers to have policies and procedures in place to protect the business and its employees.

Talk to us today about drafting or amending your existing policies.


Disciplinary and grievance policies

It is essential that all businesses have a compliant and consistent disciplinary and grievance policy in place which sets out the business’s disciplinary and grievance procedure. Such a policy must be compliant with the ACAS Code of Practice on grievance and disciplinary procedures as a failure to comply with the code can result in a 25% uplift on compensation awarded at an Employment Tribunal.

Our Employment department can advise you on not only drafting/updating your disciplinary and grievance policy but also how best to handle the procedure.


Equal opportunities

In today’s legal climate, it is not enough for Employers to simply treat all employees equally, in that they must go on step further and prove that they are doing so. The best starting place for this is having an Equal Opportunities policy.

It is also recommended that employers provide training to their employees on Equal Opportunities and on how to navigate the policy. These steps will increase the chance of an employer being able to rely on a ‘reasonable steps’ defence in potential discrimination claims.

Contact our Employment department to discuss the training courses we provide.


Maternity/Paternity/Shared Parental Leave

Rights that employers should be aware of and have included in a policy are:

  • Maternity
  • Paternity
  • Shared Parental Leave
  • Adoption
  • Time off for dependents
  • Flexible working
  • Unpaid parental leave

Such rights are far more topical today than they once were and are often subject to change. Moreover, the entitlement and notice provisions for taking such leave are complex and need to be handled carefully in order to avoid discrimination claims.

Talk to our employment department about understanding your legal duties regarding family-friendly leave.


Whistle-blowing policies

A dismissal is deemed to be automatically unfair if an employee is dismissed because they have made a protected disclosure (‘blowing the whistle’). Similarly, it is unlawful for a business or any of its employees to put the ‘whistle-blower’ to any detriment because they have ‘blown the whistle’. Employers will be liable for any detrimental treatment that the whistle-blower is subjected to from other staff members regardless of their seniority. In addition to the scope of liability employers are at risk of concerning whistle-blowing claims, the law in this area is extremely complex and employers are often tripped up by reforms and loopholes.

Advice for employers:
The only defence a business will have in these circumstances is if it can show that it took all reasonable steps to prevent detrimental treatment. It is important for business to adopt a transparent and supportive culture in order to avoid whistle-blowing claims. If employees feel supported in raising concerns from the outset then more often than not it can be dealt with in-house. Employers are likely to be at less risk of being liable in whistleblowing cases if they have a whistle-blowing policy that they regularly encourage staff members to comply with. It is also essential for employers to provide training on their whistle-blowing policy to ensure staff fully understand the implications of detrimental treatment and/or how to raise concerns.

Adverse publicity for the business…


Contracts of employment

*update* Under s.1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees must be provided with a written statement of particulars concerning the terms and conditions of their employment no later than two months after the beginning of their employment (s.1(2)). However, on 17/12/2018 a new statutory provision (The Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2018) provided that such particulars need to be provided on the employee’s first day of employment (s.3). This reform will not be enforceable until April 2020 however employers must have their updated template particulars of employment for each class of employee ready for April.

Contracts of employment are the cornerstone of every employment relationship. They define and later dictate the expectations of both parties and are the fundamental building blocks to the entire employer/employee relationship. As such, when poorly drafted, an employer is left exposed to possible Employment Tribunal claim, namely breach of contract.

Well drafted employment contracts provide essential protections to the business and give rise to a healthy and transparent working relationships as there is clarity in the arrangements and expectations of both parties.

Contractual terms:

The terms of a contract need to be clear as to what parts of the contract are intended to be legally binding.

Legally speaking, there are several different types of terms:

  • Implied terms- these are contractual terms that exist even though they are not expressly stated. These include the duty to maintain mutual trust and confidence, the duty to pay your employee, the duty to care for the employee’s health and safety. Moreover, they include terms that appear too obvious or too wide to list i.e. that the employee will not steal from the employer.
  • Express terms- these are terms that have specifically been cited and agreed upon within the contract
  • Incorporated terms- these are additions to existing contracts agreed by accepted normal practice or inserted through collective agreements (usually agreed by unions)

Talk to our employment department about amending/drafting your contracts of employment.

Key Contact

Carl Moran

Head of Respondent Litigation

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