Know how to make HR policies accessible

It’s good to have clear, compliant and concise HR policies and procedures. But how do you make sure that all managers and staff can access them when they need to? How do you ensure they only refer to the latest version? And how do you make it easy for employees to get hold of the relevant forms for booking holidays, reporting sickness absence and obtaining the necessary appraisal forms?

Create a policy framework

Think about how you want to organise your policies and procedures so that it’s logical and helps people navigate easily. You could use the ‘3 Rs’:

  • Recruitment
  • Retention
  • Release

Use a standard format

It’s helpful if each policy follows a standard format. For example, start with an introduction then the scope – who the policy applies to. For instance, all staff, all permanent staff, or those who have completed their probation? Then outline the procedure to be followed, using outline numbering for reference. End with a list of who is responsible for what regarding this policy and procedure and where readers can obtain other help.

You can cross-reference to other policies and give links to external help such as conciliation service Acas or HR’s professional body, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. It’s also helpful to write consistently in the second (you) or third (he/she) person, depending on the tone you want to give. Second person is more friendly and less legalistic.

Use ‘soft’ copies

When you can, avoid the use of printed handbooks or manuals; they are expensive to produce and take a great deal of time to collate, bind and distribute. Above, all they are quickly out of date and difficult to update. Hard copies are also more difficult to search, requiring a comprehensive index, and you cannot easily link policies and procedures to relevant forms and paperwork.

Soft copies are easy to update as policies and procedures need revision – for example, with the new Acas Code of Practice for disciplinary and grievance procedures. You can use hyperlinks to link procedures with the relevant forms and external support sites. Staff can use the search function to quickly find the relevant sections.

Make it accessible for all

A major advantage of soft copies of your policies and procedures is that all employees can access the material. They can increase the font size, use computer accessibility options to change the page and text colour, or use screen readers and screen magnifiers as necessary.


If you have an intranet, you will probably want the staff handbook available on it. The crucial point about intranets is keeping them up-to-date. If staff know or think it’s outdated, they may not look there for anything, including HR policies and procedures. Ensure employees can easily find the staff handbook (or however it’s known in your organisation) from the first page, ideally in just one or two clicks.


If you don’t have an intranet, you could consider a dedicated website for your HR policies and procedures. With database driven template websites, some of which use free software, it’s relatively easy to upload all your policies, procedures and forms.

Appoint one person who has the responsibility to ensure the site is working and up-to-date. You could add security with a log-in function. You can also choose to vary access rights depending on the user’s profile – for example, restricting senior salary scales information to senior managers.

Top tips

  • Create a simple, logical and navigable framework
  • Adopt a standard format and write in user-friendly language
  • Use electronic copies rather than printed manuals
  • Provide access through an intranet or dedicated website
  • Appoint one person to keep it up-to-date.

Peter Kenworthy, director, 3D HR

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