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Employment Law Top Five: Employment documents that every employer should have


While there are many other policies that can bring significant legal protections for an employer, the documents set out below are the minimum that even the smallest of employers should have in place.

While these documents will contain similar terms and provisions, it is important for employers to resist the temptation to adopt standard form documentation without tailoring it to their organisation. While offering lower costs in the short term, documentation that has little relevance to the organisation, or that promises things that do not happen in practice, can cause significant problems when a dispute arises, and therefore be far more costly in the long run.

1. Contract of Employment

All employers are required to provide employees with a statement containing certain information relating to basic terms of employment from day one of employment.

However, in addition to complying with the legal requirements, the contract of employment is a key piece of evidence in almost all employment disputes and a well drafted contract can offer significant protection to an employer.

It is therefore worth investing time to ensure that your employment contracts both comply with current legal requirements and that they reflect the reality of your organisation. If not, there is a danger that unintended and less favourable terms will be held to apply in place of those set out in the written contract.

It is also important that your employment contracts are regularly reviewed so that they remain up to date both with legal requirements and in-house practices.

2. Disciplinary and Capability Policy

All employers have a legal duty to supply employees with details of the disciplinary rules and the procedures for disciplinary decisions and appeals that apply to them.

While many larger organisations will have separate policies to deal with issues of misconduct and poor performance, small to medium sized businesses often have a policy that sets out the procedure for dealing with both.

A disciplinary and capability policy should take account of both the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures as well as reflecting the procedures followed in practice, while leaving employers with sufficient flexibility for dealing with varying scenarios.

Employers that do not have proper procedures in place increase the risk of a successful unfair dismissal claim on grounds of procedural unfairness and, in the case of a failure to follow the ACAS requirements, of any compensation awarded being uplifted by up to 25%.

3. Grievance Policy

All employers are required to have a written grievance procedure that complies with certain minimum standards as to whom and how a grievance should be submitted.

A grievance policy should also comply with the requirements of the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures to avoid an increase in any unfair dismissal compensation as a result of failing to follow those requirements.

As with a disciplinary and capability policy, a well drafted grievance policy should retain some flexibility for employers when dealing with different scenarios.

Read more on disciplinaries: Employment Law Top Five: Practical tips for employers conducting disciplinary proceedings >

4. Privacy Notice

All employers, regardless of size, are legally required to inform job applicants, employees, workers and contractors about how their organisation collects, uses, stores, transfers and secures personal data via a written privacy notice. This can either be done through a single notice containing details of all the various scenarios, or by having separate notices for each category.

Before drafting a privacy notice, it is vital that the employer conducts its own detailed data protection audit to ensure it understands how it uses, or plans to use, the personal data of candidates, employees, workers and contractors, and that a record of the outcome of that audit is retained.

The privacy notice must then be tailored for each organisation in light of the results of that audit. There is no ‘off the shelf’ notice that can be used as employers must ensure that each part of the privacy notice accurately reflects their own personal data collection and handling practices.

5. Health & Safety Policy

All employers with five or more employees are required to have a written statement setting out their general health and safety policy and the arrangements for carrying out the policy.

Even though there is an exemption for those with less than five employees, it is still worth having a policy in place setting out the employer’s and employees’ respective responsibilities, as all employers regardless of size have both statutory and common law obligations for the health and safety of their workforce.

In order to be effective, it is important that the policy reflects the nature of the employer, the industry that it operates in and the employer’s own health and safety risk assessment.

This article should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional legal advice. If you are an employer seeking legal advice on a particular matter or employment circumstance, please contact Peter Rolph by emailing [email protected] or by completing the form below. 

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