Employment Documentation

Employment Contracts, Employee Handbook and much more

Employment Contracts

If there's one thing you need to know about HR, it's that the relationship between any worker and their employer is a contractual one by nature. Whenever there's an issue, the first question is "What does it say in the contract?". If you don't have one, it's hard to answer.

Employee Handbook

It's not enough for each employee to simply have an employment contract. With an employee handbook, you can communicate not just the relevant employment legislation, but the principles and guidelines that define the desired culture of the company.

Policies and Procedures

HR policies set out how the company should deal with specific situations in the workplace, from straightforward ones like maternity leave, employee illness, promotion opportunities, or holidays, to more complex topics which may be specific to your company.

Employment contracts

WHAT IS A CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT?

A contract of employment is a contract of service as opposed to a contract for service . A person operating under a contract for service is not an employee of the company and is better (and normally) described as an independent contractor.

There are several different types of employment contract, including, for example:

Fixed-term/specified-purpose contracts; Contracts for Independent Contractors; Contracts for hourly-paid Employees; Contracts for part-time Employees; Contracts for Managerial/Clerical Staff.

As an employer you can form a contract of employment in three different ways

  • written agreement
  • oral agreement
  • conduct of the parties: terms of the contract though not expressed can be held to exist because of the conduct of the parties and custom and practice.
 
 
 
 
 

WHAT IF I HAVEN’T ISSUED A CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT TO MY EMPLOYEES?

All employees work under a Contract of Employment.  This is also called a Contract of Service.  Many employees have no written contract and it is often said that such an employee ‘has no contract’ but this is not the case.  The Law of Contract provides that once an offer is made by one party and accepted by another, a valid contract exists.

A contract may be in writing or agreed orally between the parties and one is just as enforceable as the other.  The parties may not have formalised their relationship in writing but a contract is nevertheless in existence.  It is sometimes argued by employers that an employee did not sign their contract and therefore there is no contract.  This is not necessarily the case.

A contract can be accepted by actions as well as by words or in writing.  Therefore if an offer of employment is made and the employee turns up and does the work, the employee has implicitly accepted the offer notwithstanding the fact that he/she may not have signed anything.  However, it is always advisable to have a written contract since, in the event of a dispute and in the absence of a written document, a court will have to make a decision based on conflicting oral evidence.

WHY IS A CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT IMPORTANT TO SMES?

The contract of employment is critical to the relationship that exists between you the employer and the employee.

The contract clearly sets out the person’s role and their rights, their rate of pay, the person to whom he or she reports and the obligations under the contract.

From the company’s perspective, it sets out where Employees fit in the organisation, what’s expected of them and what is given in exchange.

If a difficulty arises between the employer and the employee, then both parties revert to the contract in the first instance.

Typically, if there’s a problem with a contract, the Company suffers and typically, the problems are self-inflicted. Most commonly we see missing clauses, changes in legislation not accounted for (typically because a contract has been reused) and unintended clauses introduced due to cutting and pasting from another contract.

CAN EMPLOYEES BE ON DIFFERENT CONTRACTS OF EMPLOYMENT?

It is sometimes believed that an employer must treat all employees equally or they can be accused of ‘discrimination’.  This is not correct. An employer is free to treat employees differently as long as the different treatment is not based on one of the grounds prohibited by legislation e.g. gender, race, religion, age, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, disability or membership of the Travelling Community.

Employers should have further policies and procedures, such as a bullying and harassment policy, in place.  Such policies also form part of the employment contract and all employees will be obliged to abide by the terms therein.

WHAT IS A WRITTEN STATEMENT OF TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT?

The law now requires that every employee be provided with a written statement of key terms and conditions of employment. This is required by the Terms of Employment (Information) Act, 1994.  This is usually provided for by employers in the form of a contract document but it is possible to simply provide a document containing a ‘statement’ of terms and conditions which will be sufficient to comply with the law.

An employer must give this information in writing to an employee within two months of commencement of employment. This only applies to employees recruited after the commencement of the Act unless the information is specifically requested by an employee who commenced before that date.  Then it must be provided within two months of the request.

WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN A WRITTEN STATEMENT OF TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT?

  1. The full names of the employer and employee.
  2. The address of the employer in the State or, where appropriate, the address of the principle place of business in the State or the registered office.
  3. The place of work or, where there is no specific place, a statement that the employee is required or permitted to work at various places.
  4. The title of the job or the nature of the work for which the employee is employed.
  5. The date of commencement of the contract of employment.
  6. In the case of temporary contracts, the expected duration thereof. If the contract is for a fixed term, the date on which the contract expires.
  7. The rate or method of calculation of the employee’s remuneration.
  8. The length of intervals between times at which remuneration is paid.
  9. Any term or conditions relating to hours of work.
  10. Terms or conditions relating to paid leave.
  11. Terms or conditions relating to incapacity due to sickness or injury, paid sick leave and pensions.
  12. The period of notice which the employee is required to give and entitled to receive.
  13. A reference to any collective agreements which directly affect terms and conditions of employment.

Normally, much of the detail around these points is covered in a comprehensive set of Policies and Procedures. The contract document can refer to, for example, the sick leave policy and provide that full details will be provided separately.

Employee Handbook

WHAT IS AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

An employee handbook, also known as an employee manual, staff handbook, or company policy manual, is a document given to employees by an employer. It is designed to communicate not just the relevant employment legislation, but the principles and guidelines that define the desired culture of the company.

WHAT SHOULD THE EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK SAY?

The handbook should be written in such a way that, if every employee followed its guidelines, the company would be running perfectly. A good employee handbook should be aspirational as well as instructive. Note that this is different to the function of an employment contract, which is important solely for its function.

WHY IS AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK IMPORTANT?

Employee handbooks are recommended for two major reasons. Firstly, unlike an employment contract, the handbook can be changed at any time without the employees’ written consent. This means that company guidelines for best practice can be updated on the fly and employees must still adhere to them. Secondly, an employee handbook is an excellent tool for introducing new members of staff to the workplace. Because of this, it’s also an essential part of the employee onboarding process.

But the process of writing an employee handbook can be daunting. It’s a very involved task, requiring a great level of expertise in both employment legislation and familiarity with the desired culture of the workplace. That’s why a good HR team should be hired to handle it.

WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK?

Ideally, the handbook should inform the reader of the company’s practical guidelines as well as its theoretical ones, to reduce any time wasted looking for management input. This may include guidelines as to how an employee can lodge a grievance, apply for leave, request overtime, and handle workplace disputes. It can also summarise the company’s performance policy, training policy, redundancy policy, diversity policy… the list goes on. A good employee handbook should serve the legal and personal goals of the business owner, in a way that’s GDPR-compliant, genuinely informative, and easily understood by the reader. This is a difficult task… but once it’s written, it requires very few changes in future, and can be reused again and again as new employees are hired.

Policies and Procedures

WHAT ARE HR POLICIES AND PROCEDURES FOR SMES?

HR Policies and Procedures set out how we implement employment law and standards within the company. Their purpose is to provide guidance for action. An employee and a manager should be able to obtain from the policy how they should act in a given set of circumstances and how the company should react in a breach. In other words, they aim to ensure consistent, transparent decision-making that is understood by all.

WHY ARE HR POLICIES AND PROCEDURES IMPORTANT TO SMES?

HR policies are critical to the management of the organisation whether it is in ensuring compliance with employment legislation or in managing behaviour.  The quality of HR policies and their application is a strong indicator of whether your business is being effectively managed and the type of employer you aspire to be.   Well-crafted and managed HR policies should be an important asset supporting consistent decision-making, good communication and appropriate behaviours.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN AREAS THAT NEED HR POLICIES AND PROCEDURES?

Staffing – recruitment/ selection, contracts, probation, records, equality/ diversity, record keeping

Compensation – salaries, benefits and expenses

Performance management – performance reviews, disciplinary measures, dismissal, exiting, grievance and professional development

Conditions of work – hours of work, overtime, leave, flexible working, health and safety etc.

HOW SHOULD A WELL-CRAFTED SET OF POLICIES AND PROCEDURE INTERACT WITH MY BUSINESS?

HR policies are critical to the management of the organisation whether it is in ensuring compliance with employment legislation or in managing behaviour.  The quality of HR policies and their application is a strong indicator of whether your business is being effectively managed and the type of employer you aspire to be.   Well-crafted and managed HR policies should be an important asset supporting consistent decision-making, good communication and appropriate behaviours.

WHAT POLICIES AND PROCEDURES SHOULD AN SME HAVE IN PLACE?

The policies required by a business vary depending on the nature of the business.

The complete answer is that it you should have appropriate policies in place to enable your business to be compliant with employment legislation and which promote best practice management and employee performance and effectiveness. All businesses, whether a multinational or a local chip shop must have similar policies and procedures to demonstrate compliance with employment regulations. Unfortunately, notwithstanding the large gap in resources, both organisations are required to be compliant.

WHAT IS A SAMPLE POLICY LISTING FOR A BUSINESS?

The following list is intended to give a sense of different Policies and Procedures that could be included. It is not intended as guidance or as advice. The precise listing for a business should reflect the nature of operations and the management outlook and desired culture.

 

  • Probation
  • Sick Leave
  • Health and Safety
  • Discipline
  • Grievances
  • Harassment
  • Security vetting
  • Absence
  • Parental Leave