What Are HR Policies?
HR policies comprise a series of norms and guidelines designed for approaching a wide array of employment affairs. They set up rights and responsibilities for both employees and managers. The topics covered include onboarding processes, health and safety, working hours, and disciplinary measures, among many others.
These policies streamline and standardise company operations to ensure fairness and consistent decisions in all matters under the purview of HR managers. By laying out compliant and fair HR policies, you reduce the risks of possible legal actions against your company.
However, policies are dead letters if they’re not coupled with effective HR strategies and procedures to communicate and implement them, as well as line managers to materialise them.
- What Are HR Policies?
- Employment Law Relevant to HR Policies
- Who is Responsible for Developing and Implementing HR Policies and Procedures?
- Main HR Policies When Beginning Employment
- Main HR Policies During Employment
- Main HR Policies When Ending Employment
- Other HR Policies
- Are HR Policies and Procedures Required Under UK Law?
- How to Introduce and Review HR Policies
- Get HR Support from Us
- Frequently Asked Questions
Employment Law Relevant to HR Policies
The HR policies implemented in your company must fall in line with the following legislation (among the most important):
- Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – Spells out your obligation to provide safe working conditions through various means, such as supplying optimal safety equipment, arranging training sessions, and performing risk assessments.
- Employment Rights Act 1996 – A piece of legislation that centres upon a myriad of employment rights and emphasizes areas such as redundancy payments, unfair dismissals, wage protection, flexible working, parental leave, and many others.
- National Minimum Wage Act 1998 – Contemplates the criteria for determining the minimum hourly earnings per age range.
- Working Time Regulations 1998 – Includes rules about working hours, leisure time, and holidays. It also provides norms relevant to health and safety policy.
- Employment Relations Act 1999 – Stipulates various rights not covered in other legislations, such as trade union recognition or derecognition, rights for employees under disciplinary procedures, maternity leave, etc.
- Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999 – Puts further emphasis on maternity and parental leaves, with more detailed provisions.
- Part-Time Workers Regulations 2000 – Points to the obligation to give equal treatment to part-time employees who undergo similar tasks as their full-time counterparts.
- Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 – Specifies several measures to protect employees’ rights when a business gets transferred to a different owner.
- Agency Workers Regulations 2010 – Stresses that agency workers must not be discriminated against.
- The Equality Act 2010 – Outlines regulations to prevent discrimination in the workplace and during a recruitment process by reason of a protected characteristic (age, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, disability, etc.)
- Parental Bereavement Act 2018 – Entitles parents to obtain paid time off in the event of the death of their child under 18 years of age or stillbirth at 24 weeks of pregnancy or later.
- Data Protection Act 2018 – A national law that elaborates on the provisions already contained in the Data Protection Act 1998 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); and touches upon how sensitive employee information should be treated and stored.
Who is Responsible for Developing and Implementing HR Policies and Procedures?
There is no fixed standard for defining when employers might need the aid of HR professionals for developing formal written policies and putting them into effect, though the following practices are commonly witnessed:
Small businesses generally develop and review their HR policies using existing employees moderately versed in HR management or an external HR services provider on a one-off or part-time consultancy.
Organisations with an increased staff may entrust the responsibility to full-time HR professionals, who may review the existing policies or introduce new ones.
There would be an entire HR department tasked with these duties. These departments can be multi-disciplinary and comprise people professionals in different fields, including experts in Learning and Development (L&D) and Talent Management, all of whom work in tandem with administrative employees and HR generalists.
Main HR Policies When Beginning Employment
There is no set template or cookie-cutter method for establishing guidelines in an HR policy, for it largely hinges upon the needs and core values of the business. Some policies work better in some organisations than in others, and no policy will provide a silver bullet to consolidate working relationships long-term, for which reason there should always be wiggle room for improvements and revisions.
With that said, these are some of the most important HR policies that should be developed and implemented when beginning employment:
This category encompasses policies applicable to recruitment processes and new hires. Their purpose is to establish clear parameters for the selection of personnel, as well as to ease the integration of new talent through induction and guidance.
These cover a broad range of subjects such as time off for holidays, volunteering, secondment or parental duties, sick leave, break periods, harassment, bullying, grievance and disciplinary policies, etc.
Reward (Pay, Benefits)
These policies deal with subjects such as employment classifications and how they’re remunerated, productivity and performance rewards, overtime pay, pension funds, voluntary contributions, and others akin to these.
Learning and Development (L&D)
These policies apply to talent development, professional fee payment, courses, secondment, and continuous training. While often regarded as disciplinary, capability and performance management policies ought to be inserted in this category as well.
Health and Safety Policy
Policies under this category are numerous, including those that pertain to the handling of dangerous or toxic materials, ergonomic health hazards, elimination of stressors, and other similar topics.
Cybersecurity, Privacy and Data Protection
Though these can also be enclosed within employee relations policies, they deserve a separate mention due to the current rise in cybersecurity concerns and potential exposure of employee data. In this respect, employers may devise policies directed toward their HR department on how they should deal with the data they store about their employees.
Other issues that may warrant the implementation of HR policies related to managing new technologies, internet data and social media platforms, as well as whistleblowing, bribery, and corporate responsibility.
Main HR Policies When Ending Employment
These policies would expound upon the reasons for contract termination and each party’s subsequent obligations. Ending an employment relationship triggers a series of post-termination commitments, originating either from dismissal or resignation (such as sticking to a notice period and fair compensation, whenever applicable).
Other policies that may fit into this category are those linked to redundancies and the employees’ entitlements in those events.
Other HR Policies
Equality, Inclusion, and Diversity (EDI)
These policies operate from the very moment that you begin a recruitment and selection process, and in a sense, they’re ever-present throughout every stage of employment relationships. It could also be said that they reflect your organisation’s values and vision the most out of all the policies explained here.
The Equality Act 2010 enumerates several traits that are considered “protected characteristics”. Unequal treatment based on these characteristics could be construed as discrimination, making you liable to tribunal claims.
HR can also devise policies that go beyond the scope of your business’ own organisation chart. In many instances, these policies embrace all participants in joint ventures, outsourcing agreements, strategic alliances or public-private partnerships. These may be drafted by common consent while also taking into account the rights of in-house employees.
Are HR Policies and Procedures Required Under UK Law?
Not all defined HR policies are mandatory by law, but only the ones concerning the following themes:
1. Disciplinary Actions and Dismissal
Disciplinary policies should outline a step-by-step procedure with the goal of avoiding arbitrary decisions against employees, following the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. Even though you’re not obliged to follow this code to the letter, you ought to at least abide by its principles. In that sense, disciplinary procedures should guarantee employees the possibility of defending themselves by bringing their own arguments and evidence within a reasonable timescale.
Implementation and observance of this procedure will help you elude unfair or wrongful dismissal claims down the road. Furthermore, if you refuse to follow this procedure and it’s included in the employment contract, you could be held liable both for unfair dismissal and for violation of contractual terms at the same time.
Grievance policies and procedures are important resources that UK employment law grants to employees for voicing their complaints without fear of retaliation from their hirers. These procedures must be written and shared with the employees. That way, they’ll know where to go when they have to discuss any issues within the workplace.
3. Health and safety
Health and safety policies should be drafted if you have five or more employees under your supervision. As disclosed above, these policies must cover relevant workplace matters like accident reporting, how to use fire extinguishers, how to wear protective gear and other measures that both employees and managers should take to reduce health and safety hazards.
1. Assess your current practices and those of other employers
Consider whether it’s really necessary to establish a different policy or set new boundaries where they’re not needed. You may compare your situation with those of other companies in the same industry and/or location for reference, though it’s not recommended to emulate their practices unless you’re certain that they’re beneficial to your organisation.
2. Inform and consult
You should always inform employees whenever there is a new policy or a revision to an old one. Nonetheless, it’s recommended that you also consult these matters with your staff, or at least with their representatives and/or trade unions when you deem it necessary or the law demands it.
One way to induce participation of the workforce in the policymaking process is by issuing various drafts and submitting them to consultation. You could also establish probation periods for pilot policies to see whether they’re enforceable.
Lastly, you’d want to include these policies in the induction program for new hires.
3. Hand out specific instructions to managers
You’d want to give managers detailed instructions on how they should handle employment matters and policy breaches by employees under their oversight. This should help foster equal treatment for all employees within the organisation.
4. Set realistic timeframes
Your policies should set achievable goals in reasonable timeframes, taking into consideration aspects such as business size and resources available.
5. Whenever possible, establish flexible policies and have them under continuous review
HR policies may fall into disuse owing to socioeconomic and legal dynamics, so you must always be open to reviewing your policies wholly or partially to fit them with the current realities that your venture faces.
Your policies should, nevertheless, remain flexible enough to adapt to those changes whenever they’re foreseeable.
Get HR Support from Us
HR advice is a very sought-after commodity, especially when considering the outstanding number of details that you must be mindful of in your dealings with personnel.
Our experts are always ready to give solid and well-researched HR advice on how to draft and implement effective HR policies while avoiding any potential claims stemming from their implementation or wording. We’ll do all the heavy lifting while you occupy yourself with positioning your company.
Call us now at 03334149244. One of our HR professionals will gladly answer all your queries.
These are different concepts. Staff handbooks may contain your policies, but you’re not required by law to draft a staff handbook, whereas certain policy documents are obligatory.
Yes, you should include all these reasons (even if they’re already established by law) in your HR policy insofar as you’re still bound to inform employees about them. If you need advice on the legal requirements of your HR procedures and policies, you can reach out to us. To find out more about our HR solutions, call us today on 03334149244.
You must consult them if the new provisions affect their acquired rights within the organisation (meaning that they’re contractual in essence). Otherwise, you’d only need to keep employees informed as long as the information is relevant to them.