In previous blogs we discussed Policies & Procedures – why we need them? and Policies & Procedures – how to write them. Today, we are looking at which policies are mandatory and which are optional.
Policies relevant to one industry may not be applicable to another and SMEs may not need as many policies as larger organisations. However, some policies are universal and enforced by legislation. This includes for organisations such as charities and social enterprises employing staff.
Disciplinary and dismissal
It’s a legal requirement to produce a written statement of terms and conditions between employer and employees, setting out the basic disciplinary rules and procedures. If an employer fails to adhere to a contractual disciplinary policy, an employee can claim for breach of contract or (providing they have the required continuous service) wrongful dismissal.
Discipline and grievance
These should be available on a written document. Since the repeal of the Statutory Grievance Procedure (April 2009), employers should follow the new ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures.
Health and Safety policy
A legal requirement for any company with five or more employees.
Alcohol, drugs and smoking
Particularly important if staff are operating machinery. Smoking is illegal in enclosed work premises or shared vehicles, but employers can decide their own policies on smoking breaks and vaping.
This is required if there is a risk that employees or contractors working on your behalf might be exposed to bribery, and should follow legislation outlined in the Bribery Act 2010.
Bullying and harassment
Anti-discrimination laws mean that it is unlawful to bully or harass an employee on grounds such as gender, race, disability, age, religious beliefs, sexual orientation etc. It is advisable for employers to set out policies so that staff are informed.
Equality and diversity
The Equality Act 2010 replaced the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Race Relations Act 1976 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (see our blog A guide to equality and diversity). Again, policies are useful to ensure staff are aware of legal rights.
Maternity, paternity and adoption
Including statutory rights for pay, leave, dismissal and discrimination and any specific company policies relating to these areas.
Pay, pensions and redundancy
Legal obligations include minimum wage rates, equal pay and enrolling staff in pension schemes.
Working time, sick pay, time off
Working hours, breaks, flexible working, working from home, overtime, sick pay, time off for jury service or compassionate leave – these are all areas covered by legislation, and it’s a good idea to set the details out clearly in company policies.
Further optional policies
These might include:
Benefits, bonuses and expenses
To ensure staff are clear on what they will receive.
Company mission and values
To ensure staff understand common aims and goals.
Confidentiality of information
Particularly important when sensitive information is handled but also to guard against industrial espionage. Must comply with data protection legislation.
Whether company uniform or required dress codes.
Email/internet/social media policies
Their use during working hours and on company machines, and anything written by employees on emails and online, including on social media.
Training and development
Useful for staff who wish to progress, and for companies to measure performance and plan for the future.
Whistleblowing and protected disclosure
To protect company assets.
Every company and organisation should be aware of which policies are legal requirements and ensure they are carried out and communicated to staff. They should also update their policies as the company grows and to accommodate any changes in the business, political and working environment.