Which HR policies are required by UK law?

You and I both know HR tasks can slip down the to-do list when you’re busy building your business. But don’t make the mistake of thinking HR done properly is just a nice-to-have ‘extra’ – employment law applies to every business, regardless of its size, or the number of years trading and non-compliance risks your business facing serious legal action.

On a less scary note, the benefit of having legally-compliant written policies and processes in place for your business is that it makes life so much easier when a people query or issue comes up, as you know exactly where to go for guidance.

Company Rules & Regulations – Policies

It might be tempting to download free policies from somewhere you’ve never heard of on the internet, but to meet UK requirements, generic won’t cut it. Your people policies need to reflect your individual business needs and be up-to-date with current employment law, which is usually updated in April and October.

At the moment the three policies you must have in place to be compliant are:

  • Health and Safety Policy (for any organisation with five or more employees)
  • Disciplinary or Dismissal Policy
  • Grievance Policy

Staff Handbook

While it’s not a legal requirement, having an employee handbook is good practice. It’s a good opportunity to stop and think about your company goals and what you want the culture of your business to look like and make sure your handbook’s layout and tone of voice reflects that. Also, your people policies need to reflect the kind of culture you want to build within the business; you might want a policy on mental health support, on pets in the office, or to give everyone a day off on their birthday.

When we produce an employee handbook we don’t simply collect together all the company policies, as that doesn’t usually make for very interesting reading! Ideally, an employee handbook would support your induction training and summarise your policies. Typically it would explain company goals and summarise information on attendance and absence, pay and expenses, holiday entitlement, performance and appraisals, disciplinaries, equal opportunities and notice periods.

An employee handbook (accompanied by more detailed people policies) helps your employees understand what’s expected of them, and having this in writing gives you greater protection should you need to handle a grievance.


The multiple steps involved in taking on a new team member mean it’s critical that you work through each stage carefully to make sure you stay compliant and are fair to the candidates. Our top tips are:

  • Consider your interview process and questions
  • Check Right to Work documentation (you should have a copy of this for all employees) and seek references
  • Have well-written offer letters, new hire paperwork and legally compliant contracts ready
  • Have an onboarding plan to welcome new employees

Employment Contract

An employment contract must state:

  • Start date
  • Job title
  • Employee compensation
  • Confidentiality
  • Intellectual property
  • Termination of employment
  • Details of probationary periods
  • Training to be provided

When you only have a few employees, it’s easy to think that a downloaded contract template will cover you well enough, and although it’s certainly a cheap way of creating an agreement, a contract dispute will always be more expensive than paying for a properly drafted agreement to start with.

Having an HR professional draft your contracts will give you the peace of mind that you’re protected against legal action, without having a contract that’s legally over-engineered and off-putting for candidates – remember this is about protecting your business, but also giving them a feel for your company culture.

And while compliance is top of your list, don’t forget these other essentials:

  • Pension Scheme – Make sure you enrol your people into a workplace pension under the 2008 Pensions Act.
  • Employer’s Liability Insurance – This is compulsory and acts as a safeguard if one of your employees falls ill or has an accident at work.

If you’d like help from experienced HR consultants to put compliant people policies and documentation in place in your business, we can help – get in touch or take a look at our ‘Brilliant Basics’ People Documentation Packages

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Want to make sure your policies are compliant and right for your business? Contact Us