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What an employer needs to know about the HR policies required by law

Published 03 December 2019

What an employer needs to know about the HR policies required by law

Policies are important in any walk of life and for an employer they play a key role in outlining its approach to a range of crucial employment-related matters.

Human Resources (HR) is considered to be an essential part of an organisation as its role is to ensure it gets the most out of its staff.

Legally there are certain policies that HR are required to have in place and others that it is definitely advisable to have.

The intricacies of any law can be complex and confusing. Getting the basics right can help an employer to avoid costly legal action being taken against it.

HR policies are a written description of rights and responsibilities of employers and employees.

Such policies and procedures are typically developed by an organisation’s HR department or advisors and documented and communicated to staff in the form of an employee handbook

The handbook is a comprehensive document that contains a company's operating procedures. It is usually delivered to a worker upon their first day of employment (1)

The handbook will include those policies that are required by UK law. Here we take a closer look at what those policies are.

Equal opportunities

Will detail an employer’s commitment to fairness. It sets out guidelines on how it will deal with issues that breach those guidelines (2)

The policy covers discrimination, harassment and victimisation and demonstrates that an employer is willing to take steps to ensure it does not happen in its workplace.

A simple, succinct policy will suffice provided that some thought is put into the wording of the policy so that it is relevant to that particular employer.


Health & safety

Every business must have a policy for managing health and safety (3)

A health and safety policy sets out an employer’s general approach to health and safety. It explains how it  will manage health and safety in its business. It should clearly say who does what, when and how.

If an organisation has five or more employees, it must write the policy down. If there are fewer than five employees an organisation does not have to write anything down, but it is useful to do so.

The policy must be shared with employees, as must any changes to it.


Equality and diversity.

This is a written document that sets out an employer’s commitment to promoting equality and diversity in its workplace, particularly in areas like recruitment, training, and pay. It demonstrates that the organisation will stand by them and combat discrimination.

More specifically, the policy will state that the company aims to safeguard those who may face inequality or harassment due to one or more of the nine ‘protected characteristics’ covered by the Equality Act 2010.

The protected characteristics are: age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity (4)

Discipline/dismissal and grievance

The procedure is used by an employer to address an employee's conduct or performance. A grievance procedure is used to deal with a problem or complaint that an employee raises.

The ACAS Code of Practice provides basic practical guidance to employers, employees and their representatives and sets out principles for handling disciplinary and grievance situations in the workplace. (5)

Employment Tribunals can adjust any awards made in relevant cases by up to 25 per cent for unreasonable failure to comply with any provision of the Code. 

While the above policies are required by law there are numerous other HR policies, relevant to its business or industry, that it is wise for an employer to have. The government has provided an A to Z list on policies for employing people (6)



(1) First day of employment - [Internet] [Cited 3.12.19]

(2) Employer’s commitment to fairness - [Internet] [Cited 3.12.19]

(3) Policy for managing health and safety - [Internet] [Cited 3.12.19]

(4) Protected characteristics - [Internet] [Cited 3.12.19]

(5) ACAS Code of Practice - [Internet] [Cited 3.12.19]

(6) A to Z list on policies for employing people - [Internet] [Cited 3.12.19]


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For free employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 0333 772 0611


A reputation built on success

For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 


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