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How to make an Employee handbook

Create an employee handbook to set out your business’ employment policies to make them easily accessible to your staff.

An employee handbook is a document that consolidates Human Resources (HR) and other employment policies. It supplements contracts of employment (eg an Employment contract or Zero hours contract). Employee handbooks are used to provide staff with easy access to relevant employment policies that their employer has in place.

Use this employee handbook template:

  • if you are employing staff for the first time or increasing the size of your workforce

  • if your staff are based in England, Wales or Scotland

  • to make certain mandatory, recommended, and optional employment policies and to communicate these to your staff

This staff handbook template covers:

  • an introduction to the handbook

  • the following mandatory policies (ie policies that employers are legally required to have in place):

    • a health and safety policy

    • a grievance procedure

  • the following recommended policies:

    • an equal opportunities policy

    • a maternity policy

    • a paternity policy

    • a data protection and data security policy

    • a sickness policy

    • an annual leave policy

    • a disciplinary procedure

  • the following optional policies:

    • an anti-harassment and bullying policy

    • a bereavement leave policy

    • a working from home policy

    • an environmental policy

    • an employee privacy notice

    • a flexible working policy

  • the option to include enhanced (ie more detailed) provisions for certain policies

  • what other policies you already have in place

You can use our staff handbook to make a handbook that is tailored to your business’ needs. Start by selecting the policies that you want to include and, for some of the policies you select, the level of detail you want to include. You will then be asked a series of interview questions related to each policy. 

We recommend that you create and log into a Rocket Lawyer account before starting to make your staff handbook. This ensures that, so long as you have an adequate internet connection, your progress will be saved if you’re interrupted whilst answering the interview questions.

While an employee handbook is not required in the UK, it is an important part of your hiring package and workforce management. While you can have individual policies, a handbook consolidates them into one document, which can be easily provided to staff when they start working for you. By implementing an employee handbook you ensure that staff have easy access to relevant business policies and that you have a clear, transparent and consistent approach to handling staff issues and rights throughout the workplace.

In the UK all employers must:

  • have a health and safety policy, setting out how they comply with workplace health and safety obligations. Employers with at least 5 employees must have a written health and safety policy

  • provide a process for raising grievances to all employees. To ensure transparency and consistency, this should be recorded in writing in a grievance procedure

You should always include these policies in your staff handbook unless you already have them in place. For more information, read HR policies and procedures.

Recommended policies are those which, while not mandatory, employers should strongly consider having in place to meet their obligations as an employer. The recommended policies include:

For more information, read HR policies and procedures.

Optional policies are those that employers do not need to have in place. However, having them can help employers comply with their legal obligations and be conscientious employers. The optional policies include:

For more information, read HR policies and procedures.

In this employee handbook, certain policies can be ‘enhanced’ or ‘standard’. 

An ‘enhanced policy’ is a policy which allows you to offer employees more than the required minimum (eg the minimum statutory sick pay or maternity pay). You, as the employer, have more discretion as to what you want to include. On the other hand, a ‘standard policy’ is a more straightforward document which sets out the minimum employment rights that employers are required to uphold by law. You have less control over what you want it to include.

The following policies can be enhanced or standard:

  • the maternity policy - while the standard maternity policy sets out employees’ entitlement to statutory maternity pay (SMP), the enhanced maternity policy allows you to provide maternity pay above SMP and a bonus for returning to work

  • the paternity policy - while the standard paternity policy sets out employees’ entitlement to statutory paternity pay (SPP), the enhanced paternity policy allows you to provide paternity pay above SPP

  • the sickness policy - while the standard sickness policy sets out employees’ entitlement to statutory sick pay (SSP), the enhanced sickness policy allows you to provide sick pay above SSP

  • the annual leave policy - the enhanced annual leave policy allows you to set out more details about when annual leave can be taken, if annual leave can be 'carried over' into a new year and whether you'll honour employees' holiday plans they made before starting to work for you. The standard annual leave policy simply sets out the minimum requirements and considerations

  • the working from home policy - the enhanced policy sets out more details about expenses, equipment and insurance for employees working from home and more information about when working from home arrangements might be terminated

This will depend on the needs (and size) of your business. However, some common and useful employment policies you could consider making to supplement your staff handbook include: 

For more information on additional HR policies you may wish to adopt, read HR policies and procedures, HR and HR policies checklist. Alternatively, you can Ask a lawyer for guidance.

If you require any custom policies drafted for your specific needs, use our Bespoke legal drafting service.

If you already have certain policies in place, these can be listed in the ‘Existing Policies’ section of the handbook. This way you inform your staff about their existence and highlight that they are available from line managers and/or the HR department.

If you wish, you can also include any existing policies in your handbook by editing it and inserting the policies where relevant.

Ask a lawyer if:

  • this handbook doesn’t meet your needs and you’d like a bespoke version drafted

  • you have staff based outside England, Wales and Scotland

This employee handbook complies with the laws of England, Wales and Scotland.

Other names for Employee handbook

Staff handbook, Employment handbook, Company handbook, Handbook for employees, Employee manual, HR policy handbook, Staff manual, HR handbook, Human resource handbook.