Employment law – I want to introduce new policies and procedures for staff – how do I do this legally
Q. It’s the start of the New Year, and I want to introduce some new policies and procedures for my staff. Can I just put these into force, or are there issues that I should be aware of?
If you do not intend the policies to be in the staff contracts, then from a strict legal perspective you can just put the procedures into force.
For policies relating to remuneration, expenses, working hours or post-termination restrictions; contractual terms may be applicable. For this you should have evidence of each employee agreeing to them, ideally a signed document or email confirmation. An alternative approach would be to explain in writing to each employee that the policies are contractual and will be deemed to have been accepted unless the employees notifies you to the contrary by a specified date.
Either way, depending on the nature of the terms there may be some difficulty enforcing new policies introduced after an employment contract was first entered in to. To guard against this the new terms should be explained to be in exchange for something of value to the employees, for example their next pay review.
Although not actually legal requirement, irrespective of whether the policies are to be contractual, a period of consultation before they come in to force will almost always be sensible. This could take place with any trade union that you recognise, or an employee representative body if you have one. Alternatively it could take place with, or at least be offered to, employees on an individual basis. A suggested process would be to send all employees the policies in draft form with an explanation of when they are intended to come into force and the reasons for them, and then hold meetings to discuss any queries or concerns. You should be prepared to take on board, and if appropriate amend, the policies based on the feedback you receive before you implement them.
There are a number of advantages to consulting employees before implementing the policies. If you do recognise a trade union then failing to consult may be a breach of a collective agreement. Your employees are more likely to readily accept the policy if they have been consulted on it, particularly if it has a significant impact on the way they work or their benefits, and the consultation process may even produce changes which improve how the polices operate when they do come in force.Useful links