NHS people policy frameworks

This information aims to:

  1. Inform you of the development of a set of national people policy frameworks that have been written for the NHS.
  2. Support you in the development of your own local people policies, where a national people policy framework has not yet been developed.

This guidance has been developed following the publication of The future of the NHS human resources and organisational development report in November 2021, calling for the national team to work with the trade unions, systems and organisations to develop a standard set of simplified national people policies by 2025 (Action 5).

NHS people policy frameworks


This framework covers:

  • National bodies that oversee and regulate NHS services
  • Integrated Care Boards (ICBs)
  • Healthcare provider organisations
  • Primary care organisations
  • Acute (hospital) trusts
  • Mental health trusts
  • Community trusts
  • Ambulance trusts

National people policy frameworks

A standard set of simplified national people policy frameworks have been developed which are:

  • Staff-centric
  • Short, simple and easy to read
  • Inclusive, so they can be easily understood by everyone, including someone who has English as a second language
  • Written according to best practice
  • Aligned to the People Promise

They are available from the links above and also on our Future NHS community workspace.

The people policy frameworks have been developed with input from trade unions. They offer an off-the-shelf good practice people policy framework and are supported and recommended by the National Workforce Issues Group of the NHS Social Partnership Forum.

Employers are still expected to follow their local procedures for collective negotiation and agreement on policies. For most employers this would be through the employer’s Joint Negotiating Committee.

The people policy frameworks can be also be added to, or improved upon, through local discussion and agreement. Nothing in the national people policy frameworks automatically overrides local terms unless agreed at local level.

Although an Equality Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) has been completed for every national people policy framework, it is recommended that a local EHIA is also completed by every organisation that adopts a national people policy framework.

Local people policies

There will be a need for organisations to develop local people policies where a national people policy framework does not exist.

This framework has therefore been written to give guidance on how these should be developed, so that all NHS people polices have a consistent look and feel about them.

Principles of a people policy

It is important for people policies to be well-designed, easy to find and easy to understand.

There is no need to use lengthy legal speech or technical jargon. If you need to add any specific terminology, make sure it is defined. This will ensure polices are inclusive and accessible to all colleagues, so that colleagues who have English as a second language, or have a learning need, can read and understand them.

  • Keep policies short. Although it is tempting to create a long document explaining all the ‘ins and outs’ of each aspect relating to the policy, it is advisable to be as brief as possible. When listing peoples ‘responsibilities’ at the beginning of the policy, be brief. Long policies are less likely to be read by both managers and colleagues.
  • Ensure polices are designed well and are appealing to the eye. If possible, try to include some graphics and make sure they are easy to navigate. On the NHS Futures website, you will find a template for you to use, but feel free free to design your own if you wish to ensure it reflects your own organisation’s values and ways of working.
  • Ensure policies are easy to find and ‘live’ within your organisation. Socialise them well and place them in an accessible place on your intranet. This will enable you to signpost colleagues to your people policies easily and helps us to reach a wider employee audience.
  • Make sure paper copies are available for colleagues who do not have access to a computer. Also, consider issues of accessibly for colleagues who are neurodivergent and those with a ‘thinking difference’, who may require an easy-read version or who use specific software to support access to documents.
  • Remember to showcase your people polices to your ‘future workforce’. Put them on the internet and provide a link to them within your recruitment processes.

Keep policy governance to a minimum

A suggested format is shown below:

Document owner: Prepared by: First published:
Document number: Issue/approval date: Version number:
Status: Next review date: Page:

People promise

Ensure your people policies reflect not only your own organisation’s values, but align to the values of the ‘People Promise’, i.e. to work together to improve the experience of working in the NHS for everyone.

Remember that the themes and words that make up our ‘People Promise’ have come from those who work in the NHS. People in different healthcare roles and organisations have made it clear what matters most to them, and what would make the greatest difference in improving their experience in the workplace.

The seven People Promises are:

  1. We are compassionate and inclusive – We are kind and respectful. We all feel the pressure at times, but we care for each other, as we care for our patients. We don’t tolerate any form of discrimination, bullying or violence, and call out inappropriate behaviour.
  2. We are recognised and rewarded – We are recognised and appreciated – whether a simple thank you for our day-to- day work, or formal recognition for our dedication, such as every decade of service to the NHS.
  3. We each have a voice that counts – We all feel safe and confident when expressing our views. If something concerns us, we speak up, knowing we will be listened to and supported. Our teams are safe spaces where we can work through issues that are worrying us.
  4. We are safe and healthy – We’re considerate of each other’s time and mindful of each other’s workload and the physical and emotional impact this can have. While we may choose to go the extra mile to deliver exceptional care, we still look after ourselves and each other.
  5. We are always learning – Opportunities to learn and develop while working for the NHS are plentiful. Our management and supervision are first class – with regular reviews of workload, and opportunities for two-way feedback and appraisals – to ensure we are able to realise our potential.
  6. We work flexibly – Our work doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice family, friends or interests. Predictable working patterns and hours, that we have a say in agreeing, make a real difference to our lives and our wellbeing. That’s why we have access to new rostering technology that lets us take more control over when we work.
  7. We are a team – The NHS is first and foremost one huge team. Regardless of our role, experience or background, if we work for the NHS, we are part of that team. We are united by a desire to provide the very best care and support not just to those using our services, but to each other.

Civility and respect

As well as aligning your people policies to the ‘People Promise’, ensure policies promote a culture of ‘Civility and Respect’. This will help to create an environment where every colleague is valued, supported and empowered to carry out their work in a safe and positive work environment and those who encounter poor behaviours are supported to speak up.

The language used in a people policy is therefore hugely important, so be careful to use words that are kind and supportive.


A shift in language

The change in language from bullying and harassment to civility and respect is purposeful. It brings focus on a broad range of negative workplace behaviours. It aims to give individuals the ability to understand their experiences more clearly and speak up when things are not right for them and for others. It can aid conversations in teams to identify and embed positive behaviour change.

The principles of a ‘Civility and Respect’ culture are:

  • Every colleague has a valuable role to play and a unique contribution to make that will ensure the highest possible standards of conduct are delivered and sustained.
  • The need to provide a supportive approach to improving and changing behaviour and practice within the organisation.
  • The need to encompass a more proactive approach to acting on improvements either at a personal or organisational level in order to learn from experience and prevent or reduce mistakes or risk.
  • The need to create a culture of openness with an emphasis on improvements.
  • The need for colleagues to feel confident in the organisation and see their contribution recognised in the service provided.

For more guidance, see ‘Civility and Respect Toolkit’ and ‘Just and Leaning Culture’ within the NHS.

Equality health impact assessment

Ensure your people policies encourage an inclusive culture, which values and celebrates diversity, and avoids unconscious bias.

Complete an ‘Equality Health Impact Assessment’ (EHIA) before attempting to write a people policy. As part of this assessment analyse the information you have about the policy and processes within it, looking for information about how it has effected people. Review feedback from colleagues and listen to your Staff Networks and trade union representatives to understand their views. This will ensure your policy creates and maintains a working environment which enables all colleagues to prosper and thrive to their full potential – without discrimination.

Once the people policy has been drafted, review the policy again with Staff Networks and trade union representatives, and wherever possible, amend the policy so colleagues feel they have been engaged and listened to, and that their views matter. Revisit the EHIA regularly to ensure you capture all the changes and considerations you have made to the people policy.

What are we trying to achieve

If we can develop simplified people policies in the NHS, that are accessible and easy to read, colleagues will be more inclined to actually read them.

Trade unions will be able to represent their members more easily. Managers will be upskilled, and HR can be released to focus on making the NHS a better place to work.

The outcome of this will be:

  • cultural change within the NHS
  • improved employee experience
  • increased inclusivity
  • easier to recruit people into the NHS (within the UK and overseas)
  • improved retention
  • reduced grievances and employment tribunals
  • improved staff survey results

Monitoring the effectiveness of your people policy

Monitor the effectiveness of your people policies by collecting information to help you understand the impact it is having.
You could use a table similar to the one below:

What element of policy is to be monitored What is the method / information source e.g. audit/ feedback Who will be leading the monitoring When will the information be reviewed, by who/which group What are the arrangements for responding to issues and tracking delivery of planned actions
How many individuals access support through this policy How many individuals complete a form This could be Human Resources, Equality Diversity & Inclusion Lead, or Health & Wellbeing Lead This could be annually / monthly / quarterly Include details of who and how this will be reviewed and discussed
Is this policy accessed more successfully by different groups and is there any difference to agreed rates From equality demographics, bands, staff groups This could be Human Resources, Equality Diversity & Inclusion Lead, or Health & Wellbeing Lead This could be annually / monthly / quarterly Include details of who and how this will be reviewed and discussed
How supportive was the policy Feedback from users / managers about how helpful the policy was This could be Human Resources, Equality Diversity & Inclusion Lead, or Health & Wellbeing Lead This could be annually / monthly / quarterly Include details of who and how this will be reviewed and discussed