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Blog  »  September 2021  »  Introducing Contracts & Handbooks to Existing Staff - Blog
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Sep 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Introducing Contracts & Handbooks to Existing Staff

Introducing a contract of employment or a handbook for the first time to current employees, can be a difficult, tricky matter. Employees may view the new documentation as an intrusion, representing a new set of rules and regulations that threaten to make their lives uncomfortable. However, this does not have to be the case, you can introduce new documentation without alienating your work force. The answer lies in good communication and clear and concise documentation.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to introducing your new Bright Contract’s employee documentation to existing employees.

1. Hold an Initial Group Meeting

The purpose of this meeting will be to:

  • Notify employees of the introduction of the new contracts of employment and staff handbook.
  • Explain why they are being introduced.
  • Give a brief overview of what is contained in both documents:
    • Contract of Employment: confirms the employee’s basic terms and conditions and is fully compliant with the Terms of Employment Act
    • Staff Handbook: gives a brief overview of the type of policy that is contained in the Handbook, for example you may wish to highlight a Dress Code policy

If you are a small company, hold a company-wide meeting, inviting everyone. If your employee numbers mean this is not feasible, hold department or team meetings, ideally meeting with all affected staff on the same day to ensure a consistent message is being delivered to all staff thus preventing any misunderstanding, or false narratives starting. For any employees who are not present for the meeting ensure to debrief them as soon as possible.

At the Meeting

Ensure Top Management are Involved
It is extremely important that senior management are actively involved in introducing the new documentation to show this is a company-wide initiative, supported at the highest level.

Explain Why you are Introducing the Documentation
Give clear reasons why the business is implementing the documentation, for example:

  • We want to promote a culture of consistency and fairness in our company, where everyone knows the protocols and knows what is expected of them and what they can expect from the Company. 
  • We want to ensure we are fully compliant with employment law legislation

Emphasis the Value to the Employee
Explain to employees that they have legal rights and that the policies set out in the handbook demonstrate that the company is complying with the law and honouring their rights.

Promote the handbook as a point of reference for employees for confirmation on how a particular issue will be dealt with e.g. probation, disciplinary procedure etc.

2. Distribute the Documentation

Contracts of Employment

The Contract of Employment is a confidential document between the employer and the employee therefore all communications regarding the contract of employment are to be kept confidential. Therefore we suggest the following:

  • Issue 2 copies of the contract of employment to the employee in a sealed envelope
  • Give the employee a timeframe to read, review and sign the contract

The Staff Handbook

Following the meeting the Staff Handbook should be made available to all employees. Possible ways to do this can include:

  • Print and give each employee a hardcopy of the handbook
  • Print a number of handbooks and place them in communal locations in the place of work, e.g. the staff room
  • Email the handbook to each employee
  • Save and store the handbook in a communal location on your local drive, where it is easily accessible by all

Give staff a timeframe, e.g. 2 weeks, to read the handbook and formulate any questions they might have.

Both the staff handbook and contract of employment in Bright Contracts are available to be printed and exported as a PDF for distribution.

3: Be Prepared to Take Questions

Employees are likely to have questions, be prepared and open to answer any questions or clarify any points that employees might have. Keep open honest communications, listen to the employee’s comments, they may raise some valid issues that need to be addressed. Or employees may simply need clarification on a particular term. (The information snippets on your Bright Contracts program may help you address some employee concerns.)

Once you have had the initial staff/team meeting, it is not necessary to have further team meetings. Conversations at this point tend to be personalised, it is therefore recommended that queries are discussed individual and privately with each employee.

4: Collect Signed Documentation

Employees should sign both copies of the contract of employment, returning one to you and keeping a copy for themselves. Once the signed contract is returned, it should be placed on the personal file for future reference.

If the terms and conditions of employment (e.g. pay, hours etc.) have remained unchanged it is not essential to seek signed agreement from existing employees, however it would always be preferable. If an employee refuses to sign a contract after open discussions and no changes to the basic terms have been put forward, make a record on their file that they were given the contract and were given opportunity to discuss and fully understand the contracts, include dates and evidence of the communications.

If the terms and conditions of employment are being changed then it is important for employers to seek agreement from the employee before implementing any change. In this situation the employer should receive a signed copy of the revised contract.

There is no requirement to reach agreement with the employee on the Staff Handbook, however it can be useful to ask employees to sign to confirm that they have received and reviewed the handbook.

Related Articles:

Hybrid Working: Know The Basics

The Link Between Hybrid Working & Employee Engagement

Posted in Bright Contracts News, Company handbook, Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Law