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Key policies and procedures employers and businesses should have in place 

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Managing employees can be challenging and as an employer, it’s essential that you comply with relevant employment laws to avoid sanctions and legal action.

There are a number of key legal documents and procedures that you must have in place.

However, there are also policies you can implement that aren’t necessarily a legal requirement but do help create a positive working environment. This shows your staff that the organisation they work for cares about key issues affecting employees.

This article outlines key policies and procedures employers should have, what should be included in them and why they are important in the workplace.

Here’s what’s covered:

Health and Safety Policy

Equal Opportunities Policy

Environmental Policy

Grievance Procedure

Disciplinary Procedure

A health and safety policy sets out how employers will ensure a safe working environment, including the responsibilities of both employers and employees.

Some employer responsibilities include providing the relevant equipment and training needed and carrying out risk assessments.

Some employee responsibilities include reporting any problems or health and safety hazards, and undertaking training to ensure they are using equipment properly.

Why do I need a Health and Safety Policy?

It’s a legal requirement if you employ more than five employees.

It also shows a commitment to taking staff safety seriously and means they’re aware of the steps they need to take in the event of an emergency.

You should be aware that employers have new duties to ensure a safe workplace due to coronavirus, therefore it’s important you familiarise yourself with government guidelines and make sure your policy reflects this.

An equal opportunities policy sets out the measures a business or organisation has in place to prevent workplace discrimination and the responsibilities of employers to make adjustments for individuals where necessary.

This includes setting out behaviours and actions that are considered discriminatory, steps to be taken if discrimination is reported, how to avoid discrimination and whether staff will have to undertake training.

Why do I need an Equal Opportunities Policy?

Having this policy in place shows you don’t tolerate discrimination and that you’re committed to protecting your staff.

This helps create a positive working environment and ensures staff know the procedure for reporting any discrimination.

The Equality Act 2010 specifies nine protected characteristics where discriminating against based on these grounds is against the law.

The protected characteristics are:

  1. Sex
  2. Race
  3. Disability
  4. Pregnancy
  5. Marital status
  6. Gender reassignment
  7. Religion
  8. Sexual orientation
  9. Age

Although there is no legal requirement for employers to provide staff training on equal opportunities and diversity, it’s a good way to show your staff what is considered discrimination, how to report it, and the potential consequences of harassment and discriminatory behaviour.

What happens if someone doesn’t comply with the policy?

Employees who don’t comply can face disciplinary action or in some cases direct dismissal.

Where harassment or discrimination is intentional, the individual can face criminal legal action.

You should be aware that an employer will be held jointly responsible for discrimination by an employee unless they can prove they have done everything they can to prevent it.

An environmental policy outlines a business or organisation’s aims and policies to manage the environmental impact their operations have. It includes potentially harmful practices they avoid and how they encourage staff to work in an environmentally friendly way.

Examples include avoiding the wasting of paper, and managing energy and water use in an efficient way.

Why do I need an Environmental Policy?

Having an environmental policy in place allows you to monitor the environmental impact of your organisation and makes staff aware of their personal responsibilities to ensure you are staying within the law.

You should regularly review your policy to ensure you are within regulatory requirements.

Environmental policies help raise awareness for environmental issues and show the public that your organisation is committed to doing what it can to tackle such issues.

Additionally, having a good, solid environmental policy that is implemented correctly will be beneficial to your business as it will help with resource management and in turn cost savings.

What can my business do to reduce its environmental impact?

Some of the things you can include in your environmental policy and implement in the workplace are:

  • Promote recycling and minimise waste. Make it clear on waste bins what materials can be recycled and what cannot.
  • Save energy. Turning lights and electronic devices off when they are not being used and using energy-efficient light bulbs.
  • Promote and encourage the use of public transport by staff. You could consider implementing a cycle to work scheme.
  • Engaging employees. Ask your staff for their ideas and suggestions and make sure they are aware of practices and measures in place.

Two key procedures to be aware of

We’ve gone through some of the key policies businesses should have in place and now we will outline two key procedures you should have in place to properly deal with employee issues.

A grievance procedure sets out the steps that employers and employees need to take when issues or concerns arise in the workplace.

Your procedure should include the stages of the grievance process, who the employee should initially contact when they have a concern, procedural safeguards that are in place during the process and the process of appealing a grievance procedure decision.

Why do I need a Grievance Procedure?

It’s a legal obligation of all employers to provide at least a very minimal grievance procedure, such as who to raise a concern to.

This is set out in the Acas Code of Practice.

However, all employees should consider implementing a more extensive and robust procedure. This provides employees with transparency and ensures they know exactly how to raise concerns.

Similarly, managers and employers will be aware of how to deal with grievances properly and avoid going to an employment tribunal for mishandling.

A disciplinary procedure outlines what constitutes misconduct and unsatisfactory behaviour in the workplace and the steps that will be taken to deal with these issues.

Your procedure should include a definition and examples of gross misconduct. For example, theft and violence, what the process is, procedural safeguards in place throughout the process and disciplinary sanctions employees could face.

Why do I need a Disciplinary Procedure?

To ensure compliance with the Acas Code of Practice that sets out the basic principles for handling disciplinary processes. From the Code, some of the basic steps required include:

  • Have a formal meeting with the employee (the employee must be accompanied by a colleague of their own choosing).
  • Give the employee a written warning and then a final warning if they have failed to improve performance, keeping records of all warnings.
  • If the employee is accused of gross misconduct they should be suspended for five days while an investigation is undertaken.
  • If an employee submits an appeal this must be considered within five working days.

Final thoughts

Ensuring you’re legally compliant with policies and procedures is an important thing to be aware of.

And, as we’ve highlighted here, while not all of these policies have legal requirements attached to them, having them in place can help to protect your staff and the business.

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