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The pros and cons of the company handbook

The pros and cons of the company handbook
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The pros and cons of the company handbook

Yes, a handbook will give a framework for managing your staff and operations, but it can’t be viewed as definitive – it’s essential to be flexible when handling staff situations. Sandhya Iyer of the HR Dept   looks at what you need to consider when creating a handbook that works for you, your business and your employees.

As you may well know, a company handbook allows you to create a framework within which you can manage your staff and run your operations effectively. Not having a handbook means you do not have a set process in place to manage a situation when it arises, and you end up firefighting issues as and when they crop up. The risk is that in the absence of a directive framework, you may end up treating employees differently given the same situation – typical examples are dependant care leave, bereavement leave and poor weather policy.

Having said the above, having a handbook and a policy does not give you an alibi for a one size fits all approach either. When dealing with staff, a certain level of flexibility is always advisable. A well written handbook will allow you to do that whilst covering you from those major pitfalls.


When it’s not in the handbook…


Now coming to aspects which are never covered by your handbooks or contracts – how does one deal with those? For instance, did you know that your employees are entitled to union representation even if you do not recognise a union? This is of course only applicable in certain situations. What are your employees’ statutory rights? Again, it is important that you are aware of these basic rights as a handbook may not cover every statutory right. Seek advice if unsure.

Sometimes companies end up making their handbook contractual. This means that as an employer you will have to consult with your staff on every minor or major change to your handbook and policies. If this is the case, and you would like to make your handbook non contractual, then seek advice. It is not prudent practice to make all your policies contractual, as it can hinder operations to a great extent while stifling business, besides leaving you feeling as anything but a business ‘owner’!

In a nutshell, having an Employee Handbook irrespective of the number of staff can only be a positive contribution to your business. Ever heard of Herberg’s hygiene factor? The Handbook and its benefits are exactly the same – you will never know what you are missing until you have one. Its absence can prove to be one of the most dissatisfying aspects of running a business. Once you have it, it will be impossible to imagine running a business without it!



Sandhya Iyer is the director of the HR Department , helping small- and medium-sized businesses in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, Kent.  A graduate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, she works with business owners, entrepreneurs and managers to prevent people problems and help them get the best from their staff.

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