HR policies required by law in the UK help keep organisations running smoothly.

They act as the glue holding everything together. From ensuring legal compliance to looking out for employee well-being, a robust set of HR policies mean the difference between a chaotic workplace and an organised and harmonious one.

Businesses of all shapes and sizes can benefit from clear and well-communicated HR policies. They provide a framework for employees, laying out expectations, rights, and responsibilities.

The specific policies a business requires depend on several factors, including the company’s size, the industry they work in, and any unique business requirements. However, every business needs a few key policies, even small businesses and startups.

In this article, we will learn more about what HR policies are, why they’re so important, and highlight those essential policies that organisations are legally obligated to have in the UK.


What are HR policies?

HR policies are guidelines organisations establish to set the standards for workplace behaviour, rights, and responsibilities. They provide a framework that promotes fairness and transparency in the workplace and helps to ensure that organisations comply with relevant HR laws.

These policies are usually created by a company’s HR department or assigned HR advisor. However, many small businesses and startups without in-house HR personnel often outsource the creation of these policies to an HR specialist offering HR services for small businesses.

HR policies can cover various areas, including recruitment, employee conduct, pay, health and safety, technology use, annual leave, performance management, and more.

There is no definitive list of policies applicable to every organisation. The goal is to foster an environment that supports the organisation’s objectives and the well-being of its employees.


Which HR laws do UK companies have to comply with?

HR laws exist to protect employees’ rights and well-being at work by promoting fair and consistent business practices. They regulate employer and employee relationships and help ensure organisations treat employees in a fair and equal way.

HR policies are created in response to the many HR laws that UK companies are obligated to comply with. They help to translate complex legal jargon into actionable and easy-to-understand business practices. Effective HR policies mirror the principles of HR laws. They can help organisations clarify legal obligations, avoid legal pitfalls, and ensure compliance with essential HR laws.

HR laws cover many issues and address important aspects of the work environment, including discrimination, dismissal, grievances, minimum wage, maternity leave, working hours, holiday entitlement, and equality.

Key HR laws that every organisation operating in the UK must comply with include:

  • Employment Rights Act 1996 – Covers laws relating to employment rates such as unfair dismissal, redundancy pay, zero-hour contracts, and flexible working.
  • National Minimum Wage Act 1998 – Sets out the minimum pay employees are entitled to per hour.
  • Equality Act 2010 – Protects employees from discrimination, harassment, and victimisation.
  • Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999 – Sets out employees’ right to maternity and parental leave.
  • Working Time Regulations 1998 – Regulates the maximum number of hours employees can work and their entitlement to breaks.
  • Employment Relations Act 1996 – Establishes employees’ right to be accompanied during disciplinary and grievance hearings.
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 – Ensures that employees are provided with a safe working environment.
  • Data Protection Act 2018 – Regulates how companies use and store employee and customer personal data.
  • Bribery Act 2010 – Makes bribery within the workplace a criminal offence.


Complying with these HR laws (and more) is not optional; it’s a legal obligation. A simple yet effective way to embed these laws in your business’s operations is to create HR policies that incorporate and reflect these regulations. Your HR policies act as a framework that outlines the rules and best practices that your business must follow. They can help employees to understand their legal requirements and establish a transparent and compliant workplace culture.


Are there HR policies that are required by law?

Companies must adhere to many HR laws regulating the workplace or risk facing fines or even prison sentences. However, there are few workplace policies that are required by law. While the following three HR policies are the only ones that companies must have, most organisations have far more because workplace policies are an effective way of managing compliance with HR laws.


Let’s take a look at the three company policies required by law UK:

Health and Safety policy

According to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, every organisation that employs five or more people is required by law to have a written health and safety policy.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, at minimum, a health and safety policy should cover the following three areas:

  • Statement of intent – This section should state your organisation’s general policy on health and safety and lay out the policy’s aims.
  • Responsibilities for health and safety – This section should list the names, positions, and roles of the people responsible for health and safety within your organisation.
  • Arrangements for health and safety – Finally, this section should provide details about what arrangements are in place to help your organisation to achieve its aims. This could include information about health and safety equipment, processes, and procedures.

Your organisation’s health and safety policy should be regularly reviewed and updated to remain effective.


Disciplinary and dismissal policy

All employers must put their disciplinary procedure into writing and make it easily available to all staff. The policy should tell employees what standards of behaviour and performance are expected and the consequences they will face for misconduct. Disciplinary procedures should follow the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

At a minimum, organisations’ disciplinary procedure must include the following steps:

  • A letter is sent to the employee setting out the issue
  • A meeting is held with the employee to discuss the issue
  • A disciplinary decision is reached
  • The employee is given a chance to appeal the decision

Failure to follow this statutory minimum procedure could result in employees making an unfair dismissal claim.


Grievance policy

The law requires all businesses to have a written formal grievance procedure, which should either be laid out in a grievance policy or written into the employment contract. A grievance policy sets out an organisation’s grievance procedure. A grievance procedure allows employees to raise problems or complaints with their employer formally. Like the disciplinary and dismissal policy, the grievance policy must also follow the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures. Whilst there is no set process that organisations must follow, there are some set principles that they must abide by.


Other important HR policies

Aside from those required by law, there are several other important HR policies that, while not mandatory, significantly contribute to an organisation’s efficiency and legal compliance. These policies can help to streamline processes, provide a clear roadmap for managing various HR situations, and maintain a harmonious and productive workplace environment.

These additional HR policies include:


  • Equal opportunities policy
  • Data protection policy
  • Workplace Policy
  • Maternity and parental leave policy
  • Annual leave policy
  • Sickness and absence policy
  • Anti-bribery policy
  • Employment Policy


Outsource your HR policies to People Based Solutions

If your business lacks the time or resources required to create and manage HR policies, People Based Solutions can help!

Our team of HR professionals provide various outsourced HR services, including creating employment policies. We craft bespoke, efficient, and legally compliant HR policies for small businesses nationwide. When you entrust us with your business’s HR, it allows you to focus on what you do best – growing your business.

To find out more about our services, contact us, give us a call on 01925 202 217 or email

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