You are on page 1of 9

HR Policies | Factsheets | CIPD

21 Nov 2016

HR policies
An overview of the benefits of HR policies and how they can be implemented and communicated
effectively throughout an organisation

On this page

On this page

CIPD viewpoint
What are HR policies?
Who develops HR policies?
Which HR policies should be introduced?
Sourcing information for HR policies
Guidelines for introducing and reviewing HR policies
Useful contacts and further reading

HR policies provide written guidance for employees and managers on how to handle a range of
employment issues. They play an important role in practically and effectively implementing an
organisations HR strategy. They also provide consistency and transparency for employees and
managers, helping to enhance the psychological contract and create a positive organisational

This factsheet outlines how organisations can benefit from introducing HR policies; the people
responsible for developing policies in different-sized organisations; and the types of policies which
should be introduced. It also provides guidance on implementing HR policies, from reviewing and
auditing to benchmarking, consultation and drafting of new policies. Finally, the factsheet offers
advice on writing and communicating policies to different sectors of the workforce.

1 of 9 2/19/2017 10:58 PM
HR Policies | Factsheets | CIPD

CIPD viewpoint

HR policies can help organisations to develop fair and consistent approaches to managing and
developing people by providing all employees with guidance about their own and the organisation's
responsibilities. They can also help protect against legal claims. However, in most organisations
today, the remit of the HR function goes above and beyond setting policies. The work of HR teams
is becoming increasingly strategic and focused on creating environments of enablement rather than

Over and above the minimum legal requirements, HR policies should link into the overall
organisation strategy and need to be tailored to suit the culture, circumstances and size of the
organisation. Smaller organisations are likely to need only a few HR policies and procedures
although as the organisation grows new policies will need to be developed.

All organisations should review their HR policies on a regular basis. But, no matter how well any
policy is written, it's the effective communication and the implementation, particularly by line
managers, that is crucial in ensuring that HR policies and procedures are fully effective.

We encourage organisations to focus less on whats worked well for others in the past (often
labelled as best practice) and focus more on deciding what is the best thing to do, in their unique
circumstances, in order to help create sustainable and successful relationships between people and

the are
business. HR policies?

HR policies are a written source of guidance on how a wide range of issues should be handled
within an employing organisation, incorporating a description of principles, rights and
responsibilities for managers and employees.

Links between HR policies, procedures and strategy

HR policies should flow from HR strategies, and complement HR procedures:

An HR strategy is a statement or framework determining how HR can support business or

organisational objectives, focusing on longer-term people issues and macro-concerns about
structure, values, commitment and matching resources to future need. Go to our factsheet on
Strategic human resource management.

HR policies provide general and practical advice and guidance for managers and staff on a

2 of 9 2/19/2017 10:58 PM
HR Policies | Factsheets | CIPD

range of employment issues.

HR procedures support and supplement HR policies where appropriate by giving a

step-by-step account of specific arrangements that apply in particular circumstances (for
example, setting time limits within which meetings must take place).

Why introduce HR policies?

In todays rapidly changing world of work, characterised by increasing complexity and uncertainty,
its becoming more important than ever for HR to foster cultures of trust, fairness and inclusion. HR
policies play an important role in supporting such cultures by outlining the responsibilities of both
employer and employee in the employment relationship. They can impact on employee motivation,
organisation reputation and the ability to attract and retain talent. Introducing these policies can
support the attitudes and behaviours needed for sustainable performance, creating mutual benefits
for employees and organisations.

HR policies can also speed up the decision-making process by ensuring that clear guidance is
readily available to cover a range of issues. Most importantly for many organisations, HR policies
can help avoid involvement with employment tribunal claims by providing guidance for managers
that accurately reflects the prevailing regulations.

Certain HR policies and procedures are specifically needed to comply with legal requirements. For
example, a written health and safety policy is required for any organisation with five or more
employees, while there are also important legislative provisions surrounding the setting out of
formal disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Even where a policy or procedure isn't specifically required by law, employers often find it helpful
to have a policy in place to provide clear guidance that reflects the legal framework for handling
the issue in question and it also helps employees to be clear about the organisations stance on a
particular subject.

Organisations introduce or review specific HR policies for a range of reasons including:

to reflect and comply with existing or new legislation, including European directives and case
to support business strategy
to follow the latest developments in effective people management
to deal with internal change

3 of 9 2/19/2017 10:58 PM
HR Policies | Factsheets | CIPD

to comply with head office/parent-company guidance to keep up with competitors for

Whoexample, reward policies may be reviewed in order to attract or retain employees when
develops HR policies?
operating in a different international market
for smaller
Organisations organisations,
tend a desire
to develop formal HRtopolicies
develop asathey
formal and consistent
in size approach
although there isthat will
no set
formula theirorganisations
to help needs as theydetermine
grow. the point in their development at which they need to
employ an HR professional.

Typical examples of practice across organisations of differing sizes include:

Small organisations - HR policy development is often added on to the existing duties of an

employee or employees (particularly with an aptitude for people management) or a specialist
may be employed on a one-off consultancy or part-time basis to develop or review specific

Medium organisations - An HR generalist may be tasked with introducing new policies,

reviewing the existing ones and communicating them to employees and managers.

Large organisations - HR and learning and development (L&D) specialists are often
employed to deal specifically with key issues such as reward, employee development,
employment law or employee relations, supported by HR generalists and administrative
support staff.

For further details on different HR roles, our comprehensive Profession Map looks at the
competencies needed by people management and development professionals.

Find out more about the Profession Map.

Which HR policies should be introduced?

Its difficult to identify a comprehensive list of HR policies that employers should introduce since, as
noted above, HR policy needs often vary widely between organisations.. Theres no one-size-fits-all
approach to designing effective HR policies; their content should be based on the unique needs
and characteristics of the organisation and its workforce. Rather than following a best practice
approach which may be unsuitable for the diverse range of organisational contexts, a focus on why
theres a need for a particular policy, and how its aligned with the business strategy, allows an
appropriate policy to be implemented for the particular context. HR practitioners need strong
professional judgement to create policies that promote two-way relationships between their people
and the organisation. Find out more in our research report From best to good practice HR:
developing principles for the profession.

4 of 9 2/19/2017 10:58 PM
HR Policies | Factsheets | CIPD

It can be helpful to consider the type of policies that may be relevant to the organisation during the
course of the employment life cycle: beginning employment, during employment and leaving

Beginning employment

An organisation might have a distinct policy setting out its criteria for selection, together with other
relevant policies for new joiners (such as induction). Other examples of policies in this area might
be referral payment (for existing employees who recommend friends).

During employment


Policies might address areas such as how jobs are graded and how performance is rewarded;
together with provisions for aspects of compensation packages, such as pensions/additional
voluntary contributions and other benefits and allowances.

Learning and development

Issues that might be covered by policies in this area would include courses and secondment
opportunities, talent development, payment of professional fees and so on.

Health, safety and well-being

Policies might cover a disparate range of topics from absence and employee assistance
programmes to handling hazardous materials.

Employee relations and general HR issues

As well as disciplinary and grievance policies, examples include: time off and leave for trade union
activities, holidays, secondment, volunteering, parental or caring duties (such as maternity or
paternity leave), communication, involvement and other employee behaviours, including employee
voice and harassment and bullying.

Other issues

5 of 9 2/19/2017 10:58 PM
HR Policies | Factsheets | CIPD

Other policies that organisations may want to consider include diverse areas related to the wider
business needs (for example corporate responsibility or anti-bribery measures) or those associated
with emerging technology and new ways of working (the use of social networking sites, for

Ending employment

There are many reasons why employment ceases, from voluntary resignation to dismissal,
redundancy or retirement some or all of which might be covered by formal written policies (for
example, including information on the length of notice periods or the nature of redundancy

Managing equality, diversity and inclusion

Equality and diversity runs through all aspects of an organisation's policies. Discrimination on many
personal characteristics, such as gender or race, is unlawful at all stages of the employment life
cycle, while managing inclusion and valuing diversity is central to good people management and
makes good business sense. Good practice suggests that an overarching equality and diversity
policy should expressly inform the organisation's vision and values. The issue might then also be
incorporated into many other policies (for example, recruitment and selection and reward).

Beyond the organisation

Sourcing information for HR policies
In some cases HR policies may need to extend beyond the organisation, for example in partnering
When developing new policies or revising older ones, numerous sources of information are
arrangements such as joint ventures, outsourcing, strategic alliances or public-private sector
commissioning models. It's advisable to consider where common policies may need to be applied
or reviewed in light of new organisational arrangements.
CIPD resources
Find out more about our Beyond the organisation research.
Many of our factsheets and guides provide suggestions for what could be included in a particular
policy and, for CIPD members, our employment law Q&As have fuller details on legal requirements
- explore the Knowledge hub to find these by topic.

In-depth guidance on HR policy development, together with a wide range of model policies,
procedures, letters and forms, is available from our subscription service HR-inform.

External resources

6 of 9 2/19/2017 10:58 PM
HR Policies | Factsheets | CIPD

Some organisations (particularly in the public sector) make their policy manuals available via the
internet. These are often a good starting point for drawing inspiration, but it's vital to assess the
reliability of the source (date of production, size of organisation, culture and so on).

Many commercial organisations offer ready-made policy solutions, usually for a fee, which can be
tailored to suit individual employers. But, again, assessing the reliability of the source is essential.

It's particularly important to check any relevant codes of practice to help ensure compliance with
legal requirements.
Guidelines for introducing and reviewing HR policies

The following guidelines may be helpful when introducing and reviewing HR policies:

Assess/audit what is already in existence, both formally and informally.

Research and benchmark against other organisations' practice, particularly in the same sector
or location.

Consult with staff representatives and/or unions.

Establish steering groups/working parties to develop the policy.

Set realistic timescales.

Pilot draft policies.

Give specific guidance to managers.

Include the policies as part of the induction process.

Have a continuous review process.

Ensure policies are complementary, flexible, practical and enforceable.

Writing and formatting HR policies

All policies should be written in plain English. Avoid jargon so that they're user-friendly and easily
understood by all employees. When unavoidable, include a short glossary of technical terms. It
may be helpful to include a date of publication and/or most recent review.

Policies should also indicate who should be approached with queries about the content and who is

7 of 9 2/19/2017 10:58 PM
HR Policies | Factsheets | CIPD

responsible for updating and reviewing them. Its important not to assume that the current policies
in place are always the right ones. Some policies are reviewed at regular intervals, for example, the
policy on mileage allowances might be revised annually to take account of movements in inflation
or the taxation regime. Others might be reviewed in the event of legislative developments or simply
on an ad hoc basis.

Communicating HR policies

Turning HR policy into practice requires working across the business to ensure that leaders, line
managers and employees fully understand the policies and expectations (including any updates).
The format for communications will depend on the organisational culture and nature of the policies.

Since line managers are pivotal in bringing HR policies to life, training is crucial to ensure that
managers have a clear understanding of the policies, and have the capability to implement policies
sensitively and fairly. Listen to our podcast on training line managers.

Induction plays a key role in making sure new employees are aware of all the policies and
procedures within an organisation.

Go to our factsheets on induction and employee communication.

Useful contacts and further reading


Acas Model Workplace

GOV.UK - Employing people


CUSHWAY, B. (2016) The employer's handbook 2016-17: an essential guide to employment law,
personnel policies and procedures. 12th ed. London: Kogan Page.

HARDING, S. (2015) Employment guide to procedures. Bristol: Jordans.

HUTCHINSON, S and PURCELL, J. (2003) Bringing policies to life: the vital role of front line
managers in people management. Executive briefing. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and

8 of 9 2/19/2017 10:58 PM
HR Policies | Factsheets | CIPD

MARCHINGTON, M., WILKINSON, A., DONNELLY, R. and KYNIGHOU, A. (2016) Human resource
management at work. 6th ed. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Visit the CIPD Store to see all our priced publications currently in print.


GREENE, R.J. (2007) Effective HR policies and practices: balancing consistency and flexibility.
WorldatWork Journal. Vol 16, No 2, second quarter. pp70-81.

HOWSE, M. and ASH, S. (2015) Five ways to make sure global HR policies succeed. Employer's
Law. March. pp12-13.

KINNIE, N., HUTCHINSON, S. and PURCELL J. (2005) Satisfaction with HR practices and
commitment to the organisation: why one size does not fit all. Human Resource Management
Journal. Vol 15, No 4. pp9-29.

CIPD members can use our online journals to find articles from over 300 journal titles relevant to
This factsheet was last updated by CIPD staff.

Members and People Management subscribers can see articles on the People Management website.

9 of 9 2/19/2017 10:58 PM