Your HR policies are written guides to your team’s norms and processes. Your company's set of written policies are what makes up your employee handbook.
At Charlie, we like to think about policies as ‘the agreed do’s & don'ts of a business’. They set out what you do and don’t do as a company — what you expect from your team and what your team can expect from you.
They are a legal requirement: According to UK employment law, all companies must have three essential HR policies on record. No matter how small, if your business doesn’t have these specific policies you may risk legal action. You can find more information about these compliance policies in question 3.
They ensure your team is aligned: Without HR policies, there is no way for your team to know how your company operates and what is expected of them. This is even more important in this increasingly remote working world where people can’t rely on the office space anymore to figure out how you work as a business.
They make onboarding new team members easier: New employees can get up to speed much easier if they can rely on a set of written policies to get familiar with your company’s processes.
They are the building blocks of your company culture: Your policies tell a lot about the type of company you are, the people you want to attract and the values you believe in. In other words, your HR policies are your culture put on paper — they codify the way you work as a business.
UK employment law requires every company to have three specific Human Resources policies on file:
• A Health and Safety policy
• A Disciplinary/Dismissals policy
• A Grievance procedures policy
If you don’t have each of these policies on record, then your company is in breach of the law.
So, how do you go about writing these compliance policies? If you don’t have an HR team, you may be tempted to simply copy and paste policies downloaded from the internet. However, these generic templates won’t cover your company’s specific circumstances.
For example, to create your Health and Safety policy, you’ll need to carry out a H&S assessment — an examination of the way your company’s work is carried out. So generic templates that don’t exactly reflect the way you work may leave you vulnerable to legal troubles.
The only way to ensure your policies will protect your company from legal repercussions is to tailor them to the way you work as a team.
You may want to get professional HR advice on how to craft HR policies that are bespoke to your business while also being legally compliant.
Need help crafting your first HR policies and employment contract?Talk to the HR Advice team today
The three company policies listed above are just the legal bare minimum and your starting point – the most productive and supportive company cultures are built on a wider range of policies.
These policies should be crafted to fit the way your company works, the people you want to attract and the culture you want to build.
A quick search online will bring up an infinite number of contrasting opinions on what policies a company should have.
Apart from a handful of procedures that apply to all sorts of companies (like time-off, parental leave, social media policy, data protection, redundancy and dress code), there is actually no such thing like a standard list of HR policies. Different companies will prioritise and create different policies depending on what the needs of their business and team are.
For example, if you think many people in your team are likely to be starting a family in the near future, it’s important that you prioritise setting up a solid parental leave policy.
If you are a small business with no HR team, you may want to get some professional HR advice to help you prioritise the most important policies to protect your team and help you scale your company. You can book a call with us here to find out more.
The needs of your team change all the time — so should the policies you set up to address them.
You should reflect (even anticipate) these changes by updating your HR policies as often as the circumstances in your team change. Whether you are growing your team, opening a new office, or trialling flexible working for the first time — every little change in the way you work has to be reflected in your policies.
On top of that, the government’s annual changes in Human Resource Management regulations mean that you’ll face legal repercussions if you fail to keep your handbook up-to-date.
If you are a rapidly scaling startup, you’ll find it hard to stay on top of these constant updates. Consultancy services like HR Advice are made for SMEs and startups like yours — your personal advisor will recommend any changes to your policies, depending on your team’s unique circumstances and on HR best practice, so you know your handbook is always the best it can be. They will also be in touch on a regular basis to inform you of any new legal requirements, so you’re protected at all times.
Need help keeping your handbook up to date?Speak to the HR Advice team
Your company handbook is where all of your policies live. As you grow and create new policies, they all end up here. Your handbook is the one place where your team can find them.
It is therefore very important that your handbook is easy to find for everybody in the business.
A very common risk is for employee handbooks to get lost in a cascade of unknown share drives. These can become so hard to trace back that both full-time and part-time team members will often have to come to you for policy-related questions, because they can’t self-serve.
To avoid that, make sure you store your handbook somewhere your team is familiar with — ideally on a platform they use every day, so that it’s handy in case they need it.
For example, we’ve made it possible to store your employee handbook directly inside Charlie’s HR software. This way, our software customers and their teams can browse their handbook from the same place where they book time off and complete their performance reviews — and they can do that independently, any time they want.
Want to find out more about moving your company handbook into Charlie?Our HR Advice team are happy to talk
Your HR policies play a central role in building your company culture. They’re there to define what is and isn’t ok within your organisation — what behaviours you want and what you don’t want to see in your team.
Whether you do it consciously or just let it happen, this culture-crafting process happens anyway. This is why it’s so important to understand the unsaid implications of every single policy you create — because they do have a massive impact on your culture.
Every time you sit down to write a new policy or update an existing one, ask yourself: “how can this policy reflect the company culture I want to build?”
And it’s not even just about the contents of your policy or the angle and language you choose. The presence or absence of a policy can tell a lot about your business’ culture as well.
Policies like Mental Health, Diversity and Inclusion, Flexible Working, Growth and Development may not be legal requirements, but they’re not even nice-to-haves anymore. If used well, they are your opportunity to demonstrate that you are not just paying lip service to your ‘company values’ — to prove that you really care.
Investing in your company culture is the single best way to attract the right people to your organisation, to keep them in the business and to get the best out of them. And polices are one of the most important if underrated tools to building this culture.
The good news is it’s all in your hands. Company culture is something that you can actively craft through your policies. The challenge is that building successful policies that truly make a difference can be a lot of work. At Charlie, we have ourselves gone through a lot of trial and error, and we know how hard it can be for small companies without an HR team to get this right.
When we created our HR Advice service, our mission was specifically to help small companies and startups craft great company cultures through their HR policies and processes. Our team of HR advisors do that by looking at the type of business and culture you are trying to build. Based on that, they recommend a set of policies you should have and help you create them so that they are compliant, they reflect your identity and actively move you and your team in the direction of your ideal company culture.
Want to learn more about how we can help you craft your company culture?Book a call with our HR Advice team
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