Your policies underline the values and the vision of your business. They form part of your culture and will help your employees understand their place in the organisation. They offer guidance and outline expectations on subjects such as bullying and harassment, social media, equal opportunities, whistleblowing etc. They can also help you comply with the law, you need a health & safety policy, for example, if you have more than 5 employees.
It is not enough to regularly update your policies, it is important to ensure your employees have read and understood any changes. You may need to brief or train your employees. For example, you may revise your equal opportunities policy and you want to be sure that you employees understand it and and apply it in the workplace or when recruiting for example. It is also important to test their understanding.
Obtaining understanding and a signature
It is crucial that employees understand your policies and they sign to say that they have received and understood them. If you are facing an employment tribunal and cannot provide evidence that an employee has received or is aware of a policy, you could lose a case.
In the case of Weller v First MTR South Western Trains Ltd in 2022, South Western Trains were unable to convince a judge that their employee, Mr Weller, had been briefed on their social media and harassment policies and it was therefore right for them to dismiss him for breaching it. There was no evidence to show that he had read and understood those policies. Weller used Twitter to retweet racist and offensive anti-immigration posts. Although he received no compensation the court’s decision was that the case should be classed as unfair dismissal.
Use the correct policy if disciplining
Another issue that cropped up in Weller v First MTR South Western Trains Ltd was that the employer disciplined the employee for misusing company equipment when the correct policy to use should have been the social media policy.
This demonstrates that using the correct policy is key when disciplining. It also underlines that you must have the policies in place.
Policies may be included in your employee handbook which you may ask you employees to sign confirming that they have understood the contents. Policies could also be given to new employees at induction and an induction schedule signed to confirm receipt and briefing about policies at induction.
Induction is an important start to a person’s employment with you. Not only will they give you their P45, bank details etc. but it is your chance to ensure that they understand your policies. Informing them about your bullying and harassment policy could help prevent poor behaviour or could mean they report any issues. Explaining your social media policy could help employees to stop and think before they defame the company on social media for example.
Guidance from HR
We can review your HR documentation to ensure that you are up-to-date with employment law and that your policies are enforceable. We will remind you to ensure you have evidence from employees confirming that they have read and understood the policy or that they understand a briefing you’ve given them.
Contact Liz Jewer on 07803 007591 if you would like a review of your HR policies and procedures.