As an employer, your written contracts with your staff and your policies and procedures, often found in a staff or employee handbook, go a long way to defining the working relationships in your business. While it is now accepted that the reality of a relationship may be based on more than written terms, putting in place suitable contracts, reviewing these and keeping them updated is an essential task not only for avoiding disputes but also in order to recognise rights and obligations so that staff feel informed, valued and engaged.
Since 6 April 2020, it has been a legal requirement for employers to provide workers (not just employees) with a written statement of their terms and conditions from the first day of their employment or engagement. A written contract of employment does more than fulfil this obligation though. It provides a framework (e.g. establishing when and where an employee will work), permits an employer to do certain things which might otherwise not be possible (e.g. suspend an employee, require them to attend an occupational health appointment, put them on garden leave), and can protect a business during employment and even after its termination (e.g. via a confidentiality clause or restrictive covenants).
Policies and procedures help businesses to set expectations and manage processes fairly. Certain policies and procedures are nigh on essential (e.g. a disciplinary or grievance procedure), some are preferable (e.g. a sickness absence or whistleblowing policy) and others may be necessary depending on the employer’s business (e.g. many companies in the construction industry will have a detailed drug and alcohol or substance misuse policy). As with contracts, reviewing policies and procedures is also vital – the need for an update may be triggered by a change in the law or practice.
It is important that managers understand and apply policies and procedures. There is little justification for failing to follow an internal process while an outdated policy or procedure may not only cause you to lose a claim – the employment tribunal can order an employer to pay a financial penalty of up to £5,000 where there are “aggravating features”, such as the absence of a relevant employment document.
The Employment Team at Jacksons offer a free Employment Documents Audit whereby we will review your contracts and staff handbook without charge and then suggest improvements, where necessary, or recommend any additional policies and procedures which would benefit your business. We can also provide you with a quote for ongoing employment law support through Jacksons Shield where a full documents review is an initial part of the service.
If it has been a while since you carried out a review, particularly if your business has grown in size or expanded its operations, our Employment Documents Audit provides the ideal opportunity to start addressing these important matters.
For further details or to start working with us, please contact a member of our Employment Team.