Running a small business can be a challenge when it comes to policies and procedures just as much as for a medium or large business. However, policies are essential for the running of any business as they provide employees with clear rules and procedures in the workplace as well as convey professionalism to clients.

A business with fewer than 50 employees could actually require as many policy documents as its larger counterparts, and it will certainly need the same number of legally required ones. Take a health and safety policy, for example – it is actually a legal requirement to have this policy in writing if you have five or more employees. The same goes for setting out your discipline and grievance procedures in a policy to cover you for disciplinary action.

In addition to these, there are many more policies which are required as a minimum, regardless of business size, including:

Recruitment and selection process
Equal opportunities policy
Harassment and bullying
Code of conduct
Sickness absence
Annual leave
Parental rights
Statutory rules on retirement
Statutory flexible working arrangements
Pay and pensions information

The first thing to consider is the size and nature of your small business as well as the risks that accompany it. Areas to think about are:

If there is a risk that someone providing a service for your business might carry out an act of bribery, an anti-bribery policy should be put in place.

If your business holds personal information including customer or employee records, you should hold a data protection/confidential information policy.

If you are offering employees expenses or benefits for their work, put the details in a rewards, expenses and benefits policy.

Some very small businesses may not require these at all. These are just a few examples of policies that may or may not affect or be relevant to your business. It is important to check every area of your business and associated risks to ensure that you are dealing with all potential scenarios. Employees have the right to be protected and understand their work rights and the business is in a much stronger position if it is able to refer and adhere to a written policy.

Who writes the policies is up to the manager/s but should remain as consistent as possible, bringing in other staff as necessary depending on the policy. The adopted policies should ideally be laid out in an employee or company handbook but could be written as separate documents. It is worth noting though that discipline and grievance policies must be put in a written statement about the main terms and conditions of employment. Alternatively, you can refer to the policies in writing to acknowledge a place where the employee can find and read them e.g. the company intranet. Staff need to know that policies such as these exist from as early on as their induction. The intranet or noticeboard is a good place to keep these so that employees can easily access them when necessary.

Although setting up policies is considered daunting, the writing of these is essential to the smooth running of a small business. Remember to cover all scenarios for your business and stay ahead of new legislation and guidelines to keep up to date. Communicating new policies to fewer than 50 employees and equipping them with the vital knowledge of these should not be a difficult prospect. Those working in a small business deserve their rights to proper policies and procedures as much as those in larger businesses. If anything, the repercussions of something going wrong in a small business may be felt just as much as (or more than) a larger one and should not be taken for granted.