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Protect your business, codify your culture: the benefits of an employee handbook

Getting an employee handbook in place that fits your specific business context is an important step for your small company. With the right handbook, you can make sure your business is legally compliant and begin to codify your unique company culture.  

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is a guide that companies provide for their teams that sets out useful information about working at the business. Employee handbooks can also be called an employee manual, a company handbook or a staff handbook, but they all mean the same thing.

The employee handbook is often one of the first things a new starter will receive when they first join a company. They’re designed to be a great first introduction to their new role, but the best employee handbooks are useful for current team members too.

What should be included in an employee handbook?

Employee handbooks will differ from company to company but generally speaking, they usually contain three kinds of information:

  1. Culture. This could include a welcome message from the team, a statement on the company mission, an introduction to the company culture – often, it’s all three.
  2. ‘Ways of working’. Every company does its work differently – your company handbook is a great place to set out exactly how your team works together.
  3. Company policies. Different companies have different expectations of their employees – this is your chance to set out those expectations.

What are the benefits of an employee handbook?

As we just saw, an employee handbook usually covers a lot of different topics but the benefits of putting all that information together usually fall into two camps:

1- With the right employee handbook, you can make sure your small company is complying with the law

UK employment law requires every business to have three specific HR policies on file. Those three policies are:

  1. A Health and Safety policy
  2. A Disciplinary policy
  3. A Grievance policy

This law applies to every company in the UK (including very small teams and startups) so if you haven’t got these in place it’s a good idea to get them sorted as soon as you can. If you’re not sure where to start with these policies, click here to find out how we can help.

2- With the right employee handbook, you can codify your company culture

When it comes to employee handbooks, just complying with the law is the bare minimum you should be aiming for.

The very best employee handbooks serve as the living, breathing embodiment of a company’s internal culture. They should set out exactly what a company believes in, how its team approaches their work and the mission that the company is striving to fulfil.

That’s why the best employee handbooks contain far more than just the three policies required by the law. Companies that take their culture seriously understand that there’s far more to creating and sustaining a great culture than just a Health & Safety, Grievance and Disciplinary policy.

Whether it’s your remote work offering, how your company supports your team’s mental health or what help you give to team members with children via your parental leave policy, every decision you make about your business makes up part of your company culture – and if that culture is going to be sustained, it needs to be codified.

How to create an employee handbook

Putting together a passable employee handbook on your own is definitely possible. There are all sorts of templates available online that you could copy and paste into your own version.

However, if those templates are going to be legally watertight they’ll need to be manually retrofitted to fit your own business. That can be a huge drain on your time – and without expert help, you’ll never be quite sure you’ve got it right, either. Not until it’s too late, anyway!

For many small businesses, the easiest, most efficient and most effective way to create an employee handbook is to get professional help.  

Most of the time, you’ve got three options to choose from:

  1. Make a full-time, in-house HR hire
  2. Hire an HR consultant (like Peninsula)
  3. Take out an HR Advice plan with Charlie

Below, you can see a breakdown of the upfront costs of all those options:

Charlie's monthly HR Advice plan is the cheapest option (although an annual plan is cheaper over the course of a year). 

Get a bespoke employee handbook with HR Advice  

With HR Advice, our experienced advisors will make absolutely sure your employee handbook is legally compliant, giving you peace of mind knowing your company is protected from legal repercussions.

They’ll also tailor your employee handbook to reflect your company tone of voice, making sure it speaks to your team in a way you feel is right.

And finally, our advisors can help you craft bespoke company policies that are right for your specific company context. With their help, you can put the building blocks in place for the culture you want to see at your company.

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Where’s the best place to store an employee handbook?

For all the good intentions that go into an employee handbook, there’s always been a tendency for them to become lost over time. For many years, back when employee handbooks were all printed on paper, they’d often end up living in forgotten filing cabinets – out of sight and out of mind.

Even as workplaces became more and more digital, it was all too easy for handbooks to get lost in shared drives, hidden down a rabbit hole of folders and subfolders.

Information is only ever useful when it’s easy to find and clear to understand – which is why we’ve made it possible to store your employee handbook directly inside Charlie.

Now, you can give your team clarity on how your company operates in a place they can always find it.

If you're already an admin on Charlie, you can take a look at Handbooks right now.

Not only is this great for current employees, it also makes onboarding new starters a much simpler and consistent process as well (especially when you’re onboarding them remotely). Now, you don’t have to spend hours pulling documents together – your entire handbook is already waiting in one place.

And finally, Handbooks lets you draft new policies and documents and puts you in control of when your team can access them.

To take a look at Charlie's Handbooks feature, you can book in a free demo right now – just hit this link.

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