How often do staff handbooks need to be updated? Like most things in employment law, this will depend upon a number of things. Rather than set a hard and fast rule, employers should learn to look for the signs that it is time to update your handbook. 
The policies don’t reflect current working practices and conditions 
If your policies haven’t been updated in a while, they are likely to be out of date – especially given the amount of changes we’ve seen over the last few years. It’s understandable that policies may have fallen behind, but ignoring the issue can be a recipe for disaster. 
If a policy is out of date, it might not protect you at a tribunal. For example, when a company dismissed an employee for attending work with Covid, the dismissal was found to be unfair partly due to the fact their health and safety guidance was outdated and didn’t include any instructions about Covid. 
When defending your organisation from vicarious liability for discrimination (where you may be responsible for the actions of your staff), you will need to show that you took all reasonable steps to prevent the behaviour. Keeping your relevant policies relevant and up to date is a reasonable step to prevent discrimination, and failing to do so could leave you liable. 
Managers don’t apply them 
Look into why your managers aren’t applying your policies correctly. It might be that the policies are overcomplicated, so managers don’t understand them properly, or are hesitant to invoke the policies apart from as a last resort. Perhaps your managers don’t see the value in the policies. Again, having simpler policies that are clear, concise, and set out a purpose could help with this. 
It could also be an issue with what your managers see as their role and responsibilities. If you believe the issue is with your managers rather than the policies, it could be a training issue. It could also be to do with how you recruit and promote managers, or how you communicate what you expect of them – all issues which could be helped by improving your policies. 
You have a lot of disputes in the workplace 
This might be because staff don't know what's expected of them or aren’t sure how to address grievances properly. The lack of clear guidelines may have inadvertently caused your workplace and workforce to have developed a culture different to what you intended. Clearer policies that set your standards and how to address problems could help reduce the amount of disputes. 
If you rarely see disputes about things that are covered in your handbook but have lots of disputes about other issues not covered, it's time to get policies for these subjects. We can draft bespoke policies if they aren't included in our standard handbook. 
You have a high turnover of staff 
Even if you don’t suffer many disputes, your staff turnover could indicate problems. Staff may just be choosing to leave rather than raising issues. 
Good grievance and whistleblowing policies will encourage staff to be more open about problems so that they can be resolved before they escalate or drive people away. Policies that improve the workplace, such as family friendly policies will keep staff happy and hopefully less likely to look elsewhere. 
You’re not sure whether any of these apply to your organisation 
If you aren’t completely familiar with your policies, this usually means you aren’t referring to them regularly. They might be getting stale and outdated. 
Rather than just find a new set of standard policies, think about why you aren’t engaged with your policies, so that you know what needs to change. You can then ensure your next set of policies is tailored to your organisation, to avoid the same problem recurring. 
My organisation does need a new handbook – what should I do? 
Visit our Staff Handbooks page to find out more about our easy to read policies, tailored for your business.  
Then call us on 0121 817 0520 or fill in the contact form below to discuss your needs. 
Tagged as: Employers, Policies
Share this post:


Do you have a legal matter you'd like to discuss with us? Get in touch using the details below or use the form here and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss your enquiry. 
Phone: 0121 817 0520 
Address: Spencer Shaw Solicitors Limited 
St Mary's House, 68 Harborne Park Road,  
Harborne, Birmingham, B17 0DH 
Opening hours: 
Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 5:00PM 
Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays - Closed 
Keep in touch 


We take your privacy seriously and will only use the information you provide on this contact form to deal with your enquiry. Please see our Client Privacy Policy for more detail. 
Our site uses cookies. For more information, see our cookie policy. Accept cookies and close
Reject cookies Manage settings