How to know if your company needs staff handbooks

staff handbooks

“An employee handbook, sometimes also known as an employee manual, staff handbook, or company policy manual, is a book given to employees by an employer. The employee handbook can be used to bring together employment and job-related information which employees need to know”.


New employees have to absorb a lot of new information when starting a new job. When trying to remember vast amounts of new names and the directions around the office, finer details such as company policies and procedures can easily be forgotten. This is why employee handbooks are useful. They provide a useful reference point for finding  information, to minimize second guessing and confusion . 

Are staff handbooks a legal requirement?

No. Staff handbooks are not a requirement by law so it is entirely at the discretion of the employer whether they need them. However, contracts of employment that usually coincide staff handbooks are a legal requirement. Failure to have a staff contract may result in legal action against the company. 

What do staff handbooks include?

A staff handbook may include information such as:

  • The company’s policies and procedures. For example, safeguarding procedures and internet usage policies. 
  • A welcome message for new employees written by the company owner. 
  • An overview of the company including; its history, its culture and its values. 

Why should you consider staff handbooks?

Firstly, one benefit of employee handbooks is that they set out company goals and values and explain what you should expect from employees in relation to these. Furthermore, they set out a clear policies and procedures system so that actions taken are consistent. 

They also benefit managers as templates of how they should conduct themselves in a variety of scenarios. They are also useful for managers and higher ups to help justify any disciplinary action they enforce as they can refer to the company guidelines. 

Employee handbooks are also useful in helping to avoid legal action. In a worst case scenario of an employment tribunal claim, you can use them to prove that you have acted in accordance with the policies and procedures set up. Thus this can be useful for business owners if an employee is to accuse them of unfair dismissal. 

Handbooks can help identify a companies workplace policies. However, it is important for these to be reviewed and observed. Read this article to find out more.

When shouldn’t you consider having a staff handbook?

If staff handbooks are likely to never be used they are probably not worth the hassle of creating. In addition, if you don’t have the time to keep it up to date and review it on a yearly basis they are probably not worth it as they require a lot of maintenance to keep up to date.  Finally, do not have staff handbooks if they will not be followed as this will provide inconsistencies that can confuse staff. 

Designing a staff handbook

You should design the handbook in a way that suits the company. Smaller businesses may prefer a more informally written handbook that is more brief. On the other hand larger companies and more formal operations may want more formally written, more in depth handbooks. 

Although you may want the handbook with lots of detail, one should avoid the use of unnecessary jargon. This will make it harder to read which is not useful for people looking to find information quickly. 

Policies that are essential to many businesses you may include are:

  • Disciplinary and Grievance
  • Managing Sickness Absence
  • Social Media and Use of the Internet and Email.
  • Recruitment
  • Working hours
  • Whistleblowing policy
  • Bribery Act policy
  • Maternity, paternity and adoption, parental leave policies
  • Compassionate and bereavement leave
  • Flexible and home working policies
  • Equal opportunities policy
  • Health and safety

You may make an employee handbook contractual, meaning it will form part of the contract of employment. However, this may not be recommended as it would leave less freedom to make changes where needed as it would require permission from other members of staff. This is why many handbooks are non contractual so they can be amended as you please. However, the decision on whether it is contractual or not does need to be set out as part of the handbook. Some terms within handbooks are contractual by nature including sickness and holiday rights.

For more information regarding employee handbooks or for more HR support, contact us.