Does your business have an employee handbook? If not, do you know what an employee handbook is, or why you might need one? In this guide we’ll explain everything you need to know about them and why you need them, as well as giving you a guide for an employee handbook template.

What is an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook is like a manual for your employees that will guide them through their employment with your business, covering crucial areas like; policies, procedures, your expectations of them and anything they need to know about the company culture.

You don’t legally need a handbook and some small businesses might feel like they have better, more personal ways of imparting all this information to their staff - that said, employee handbooks are a useful tool to have.

Employee handbooks can be a great way to help bring a new hire up to speed with the culture of the company, particularly if they are working remotely. Even those who have been with you for several years can benefit from the handbook because it should clearly lay out the company values and expectations, which can be used to help decision making and business alignment.

The Society For Human Resource Management recommends that businesses not only provide every employee with a copy of this (whether it’s physical or digital) but that all employees should have to sign to say that they have received it, read it and will abide by the guidance.

Despite this, it’s a separate document to the employment contract each employee will have, even if it has some of the same policies and conditions in it. The handbook can contain information about all of the policies that are implied in the contract so that some of them are more easily tweaked without needing to renegotiate contracts.

For this reason, employee handbooks should be reviewed, renewed and reissued on a regular basis to keep them active and relevant. So, why not get started with our free employee handbook template for UK small businesses.

What do Employee Handbooks include?

So, what should you include in the perfect employee handbook template for UK small businesses? Here are some suggestions:

Company policies

Your employee handbook should cover all of the most important policies that staff need to be aware of. These should cover legal employment policies like sick pay and annual leave, but also health & safety policies, confidentiality and data protection, harassment and violence and related disciplinary procedures.

As well as telling employees what the consequences of breaking these policies would be, this section can be used to build a more positive message about what expected behaviours are and why they are important to help build a pleasant workplace culture for everybody. This leads into…

Code of Conduct

Not every aspect of workplace life needs a policy but your handbook is an opportunity to make it clear to employees how they are meant to act while working or representing your business. This can include; the dress code, how they are meant to use digital devices, how to deal with any potential conflicts of interest, or even what should happen in the case of workplace relationships.

Performance Management and Evaluation

This section can include information about HR procedures that relate to how your employees are performing. So it will detail how the performance review schedule works and what is involved. Rewards and compensation can be covered here too, covering any overtime, sick pay and even how payroll operates and what day of the month is payday.

It can also include professional development information, encouraging staff to identify opportunities for training that they feel would benefit them and the business.

Benefits and Perks

The employee handbook isn’t going to be seen by potential employees but that doesn’t mean that it’s not an opportunity to sell your business as a great place to work. After all, retention is crucial too, so be sure to use the handbook to remind your existing employees about the perks and benefits that are available to them, whether it’s discounted gym membership, public transport incentives or a reminder that they can take their birthday off.

Company Values & Mission

Another essential addition to an employee handbook is information about the company’s values. These should have been designed with the input of employees to begin with, so should reflect the kind of company your staff want to work for. Having an explanation of how the values came to exist, what they mean and how you expect your employees to live them in the workplace.

This helps to elevate them from some words written on the office wall to something that can act as a shared set of values, informing new staff and reminding existing employees why they are meaningful.

Along with the values, your handbook gives you a chance to put your company’s mission into writing for new and existing employees to see and be inspired by, rather than letting it be written and forgotten about.

Examples of Employee Handbooks for Small Businesses

So, now we’ve covered what you need to include in your employee handbook UK template, but what if you still need some inspiration? There are plenty of examples of real-world employee handbooks out there that you can take ideas from, but most are from the type of big tech companies that like to share their best practices.

That isn’t to say that a small business can’t learn from the handbook used by Netflix, HubSpot or Facebook, because they have the resources to find exactly the right way to get their messages across. However, the challenges they face and the challenges that your business faces are going to be very different.

So there are other examples that you can read for inspiration, including the famous employee handbook from Valve, which has often been held up as an example of best practice. The handbook from Disqus is another example that is often cited as one to learn from, not least because they have a Culture book, as well as an official handbook.