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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. They may see it as a sign of management distrust, or at least that the workplace is becoming less friendly.

However, this does not have to be the case. You can introduce new documentation without alienating your work force. The answer lies in good communications.

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:

Information given at the meeting should be given in general terms, individual’s specific terms and conditions of employment should not be discussed.

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. This ensures a consistent message is being delivered to all staff, preventing misunderstanding, or the “rumour mill” starting. Ensure to debrief any employees who are not present.

At the Meeting

It is extremely important that senior management are present and are actively involved in introducing the new documentation. You will be a lot more likely to gain employee “buy in” when they see it’s not just their supervisors rolling out these policies, but it is a company-wide initiative, supported at the highest level.

Give clear reasons why the business is implementing the documentation. Have a business case prepared, some suggestions include:

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 honoring their rights.

Promote the handbook as a point of reference for employees, somewhere they can refer to for confirmation on how a particular issue will be dealt with.

2. Distribute the Documentation

Contracts of Employment

The Contract of Employment is a confidential document between the employer and the employee. Therefore, be sure that all communications regarding the contract of employment are kept confidential.

We suggest the following steps:

Click here for a sample letter to accompany the new contract which gives instructions on what the employee needs to do upon receiving the contract. This letter should be amended to suit your particular situation. 

The Staff Handbook

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

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

Step 3: Be Prepared to Take Questions

Employees are likely to have questions, this is normal.

Be prepared and open to answer any questions or clarify any points that employees might have. Keep open honest communications, anything else is likely to appear as defensive to employees and heighten distrust.

Be open to listening to the employee’s comments, they may raise some valid issues that need to be addressed. Or they may simple 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.

Step 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.


Good luck and remember honest communication is key!


The above notes have been designed as guidance only.



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