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Topic: Policies

staff handbook introduction
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Staff handbook introduction

Staff handbook introduction

Where you put a number of our policies and procedures together to form a staff handbook, it’s common for that handbook to have a short introduction covering what it is, its legal status and the provisions for varying its terms and communicating any changes to the staff. You can use our staff handbook introduction for this purpose.


There are no hard and fast rules about what should be included in the introduction to a staff handbook. Some employers will use it to provide a brief overview of the business and to include their “mission statement”, so feel free to include paragraphs covering these issues if you wish. However, it’s common for it to cover the following administrative issues:

 what the handbook is all about and what it contains

 who employees can contact if they have any queries about the contents

 what its contractual status is, i.e. does it form part of the employee’s contract of employment or not, or do only some sections have contractual status?

 what changes can be made to the handbook by the employer and how these changes will be communicated to employees

 where a copy of the latest version of the handbook can be obtained from.

Our Staff Handbook Introduction covers all of these matters but be aware that you will need to amend it where appropriate to suit your own particular circumstances. In particular, we have provided for the handbook to be divided into two distinct parts – part one is contractual and part two is entirely non-contractual. It’s recommended you review your handbook at least once (preferably twice) a year.

Contractual status

The big issue is contractual status. Do you want the handbook (or some sections of it) to form part of the employee’s contract of employment? Obviously, if a provision has contractual force, then both parties are bound by it and it is easier to take action, such as formal disciplinary action, in the event of a breach by the employee. Where something does not have contractual force, it’s really no more than guidelines or best practice and it can therefore be more difficult to enforce it against the employee using formal action. So it’s usual for provisions that impose obligations on the employee in terms of their behaviour to be given contractual force, such as policies relating to confidentiality, security and the use of e-mail, Internet, etc. However, the downside of contractual force is that you can’t then make substantive amendments without employee agreement, as the terms of the relevant policy form part of the employee’s contract of employment. Changes that simply reflect the latest legal developments would be fine, as would very minor changes or those that are simply of a procedural nature or fall within management prerogative (such as methods of working or the system for reporting sickness absence). However, substantive changes would require agreement, involving you having to consult with the workforce first. Conversely, a non-contractual policy or provision can be amended or withdrawn at any time.

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