Once a business begins to grow – and especially when it starts taking on employees – it’s important to document the company policies and procedures.
Having a full set of company policies in place ensures that both employers and employees understand their rights and obligations, as well as helping to meet best practice and compliance standards. Let’s take a look at some of the most important types of company policies.
Health and safety policy
All businesses are required to have a health and safety policy, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Any business with at least 5 employees is legally obliged to have this policy written down as a document – and it must be shared with all members of staff.
A health and safety policy helps to identify any risks and prevent workplace accidents. It sets out the general approach to health and safety and should include the following:
- Statement of intent – this outlines the general policy on health and safety in the workplace
- Responsibilities – this section should include the names and positions of everyone with health and safety responsibilities in the company
- Arrangements – this part of the policy details the practical arrangements related to health and safety, such as how risk assessments are conducted
There is a wealth of health and safety information available for free on the website of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as well as further information on creating policies.
Disciplinary and grievance procedure policy
Businesses are legally required to provide their employees and workers with a written statement of employment particulars upon starting work – and a wider written statement which includes information about disciplinary and grievance procedures within 2 months.
A disciplinary procedure sets out the process by which an employer will deal with any employee problems arising during the course of employment. In general, these will address either issues of employee conduct or performance. For example, if an employee is regularly late for work or their standard of work is unsatisfactory, this may be investigated in the form of written warnings and meetings.
On the other hand, a grievance procedure governs the manner in which complaints raised by employees are handled. For example, if a worker accuses their line manager of bullying, they will need to follow a certain process, such as raising the matter with the HR department or a more senior manager within the business.
Since disciplinary and grievance procedures can potentially lead to the dismissal of members of staff, it’s vital that they are properly documented and followed to the letter. Furthermore, they should be in line with the ACAS Code of Practice – otherwise, the business can end up being penalised in an employment tribunal.
Since technology now forms an integral part of most businesses, a comprehensive IT policy – albeit not legally required – is an extremely important document. It helps to govern the use of computers and the internet by employees, as well as contractors and other third parties. Some of the key elements of an IT policy may include are listed below:
This is such an important area that it will often form a separate policy, but since most modern data is created digitally this is often included as a subset of the IT policy.
It should follow the rules set out by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) governing the creation and processing of personal data, and it can help the company to meet its legal obligations under the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018) and UK GDPR.
Email and internet use
Setting down rules about the use of email and the internet not only helps to ensure that the workforce is not being distracted from their work, but also prevents the unauthorised use of company networks, which can otherwise clog up the bandwidth required for business purposes.
This section basically outlines what company-owned devices, including laptops, tablets, and mobile phones, can and cannot be used for. In particular, it will specify whether any external software is allowed to be installed, which is crucial for cybersecurity.
Many companies now have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, which normally provides some form of monetary compensation in exchange for employees using their own devices for work purposes.
This is a developing area that has the potential to cause serious headaches for a business. Although it can be difficult to request that an employee uses their personal social media accounts in any particular way*, guidelines should always govern the use of any work-related accounts.
LinkedIn is a grey area, since it’s generally a personal account but also very client-facing and impacts the marketing efforts of an organisation.
* Since the personal social media accounts of employees are highly discoverable, and controversial posts have the potential to cause reputational damage for a business, employers are increasingly asking their staff to be mindful of their use of personal social media.
Sickness and paid leave policies
Information on procedures for sickness absence, holidays, and other forms of paid leave, needs to be provided to an employee on their first day.
Although this might just form part of an employment contract or written statement of employment particulars, some companies provide specific policies on a range of issues dealing with absence from work, including:
- How to record sickness and claim sick pay
- Permitted annual leave and procedures for booking holidays
- Maternity, paternity, and parental leave and pay policies
Flexible working policy
Employers are required to give reasonable consideration to flexible working requests from any employees who have worked for at least 26 weeks.
A flexible working policy outlining the procedure for considering any such requests, including the holding of a meeting and providing an appeal process, can help ensure that appropriate procedures are followed by managers. This reduces the possibility of disputes arising and the matter leading to an employment tribunal.
Equality and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Many companies decide to have a policy document that essentially demonstrates their ethical stance on a range of social issues, as well as their commitment to fulfilling any related pledges. Commonly this will include upholding values of equality and promoting diversity within the workforce. Some of the issues covered in a CSR policy may include:
- Environmental – this may involve reducing the use of paper and electricity in an office
- Ethical trading – this can include using ethical bank accounts and checking the ethical credentials of suppliers and clients
- Charity and community – some companies directly donate money for community projects, whilst others provide a certain amount of time off for staff members who wish to pursue voluntary charitable causes