Tag Archives: employee handbook

Employee Handbook 101 – Creating a Comprehensive Handbook

An employee handbook is an easy way to transmit important information to employees in a comprehensive manner. Employee handbooks provide company information for new employees, serve as a reference for seasoned employees, ensure that all individuals are consistently treated with regard to company policies and procedures, and can protect the company from potential lawsuits.


When creating a handbook for your company, draft it as a quick reference guide for employees. Generally, it is best to keep the document under 20 pages. Handbooks should be reviewed every one to three years to ensure the policies and procedures are still relevant and up to date. In addition, it is best to individualize your handbook so that each policy pertains specifically to your company and employees.


Employee Handbook Best Practices

  1. Have your handbook reviewed by legal counsel to ensure it does not contain unlawful provisions or language that could be interpreted as creating an employment contract.
  2. Make sure your handbook clearly states that it is not a contract and that the employment relationship is “at will” and can be ended at any time with or without cause.
  3. Include a statement that Greenroom Interactive has the right to revise policies at any time.
  4. Include an effective date on each page of the employee handbook and include a statement that the current handbook replaces any previous handbook.
  5. Require employees to sign a statement acknowledging that they have received the handbook and understand its provisions. Keep a copy in each employee’s personnel file.
  6. Make sure that your handbook includes a list of offenses which are subject to discipline (but also note it is not a comprehensive list).
  7. Be sure to include an email, voicemail and Internet usage policy.
  8. Include a section concerning equal employment opportunity and harassment.
  9. General language gives you flexibility and allows your handbook to be changed easily.
  10. Common trouble areas include policies on discipline/progressive discipline, layoffs, severance pay, probationary periods, performance evaluations, work rules and employee benefits. If you choose to include policies on these topics, legal counsel should carefully review them.
  11. Make sure that the documentation within your organization is consistent.
  12. Define the terms that you use, such as “excessive tardiness,” “insubordination,” etc.
  13. Make sure supervisors understand that their discretion is limited and that they cannot modify the handbook. Consider supervisor training sessions on policies such as FMLA, ADA, harassment, employee discipline, interviews, etc.
  14. Review your handbook annually to make changes and then have legal counsel review those provisions. Give employees notice and have them sign off on significant changes.



How to Keep Your Employee Handbook Useful and Current

An employee handbook is a great way to streamline communication between employers and employees and serves as an effective reference point. Not only does it set clear expectations and define company policies, it also provides comprehensive information that employees can reflect on whenever questions arise. When written correctly, an employee handbook will keep everyone on the same page and dramatically reduce your liabilities.


What Is an Employee Handbook?

The formal definition is “A manual that explains a company’s major human resources and employee policies and procedures and describes employee benefits. It is a toll that communicates that firm’s policies efficiently and effectively and helps to ensure that office procedures comply with employment laws.” Simply put, it’s a resource where employees can find information on topics like:

  • Company policies and rules
  • Employee rights and benefits
  • Your expectations of employees
  • Your legal obligations as an employer


What Should Be In an Employee Handbook?

Although the specifics will differ from company to company, there are some core topics that should almost always be covered. These include:

  • Policies regarding equal employment, anti-discrimination and harassment
  • A guide that explains how employees should go about reporting discrimination or harassment
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Scheduling
  • Safety procedures
  • Polices regarding leave (e.g. maternity leave, military leave and jury duty)

In addition, you may want to include an at-will statement, which means that you can terminate an employee at any time for any reason as long as it’s within the confines of the law. Although businesses in every state besides Montana operate on an at-will premise, it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Why It’s Important

Having a comprehensive employee handbook is important for three main reasons. First, it should minimize misunderstandings between you and your staff. By having everything clearly outlined, it should eliminate a lot of confusion and help operations run smoother with less friction.

Second, it prevents you from creating obligations for yourself that could come back to bite you in the future. For example, employees will know that there are no promises of continued employment and that you have the right to terminate them.

Third and perhaps most importantly, you can keep yourself and your company out of legal hot water and avoid unnecessary lawsuits. When there’s a formal handbook in place, this can be used in your defense in the event that you’re ever sued.


How to Keep It Updated

Due to the fact that there are consistent changes to laws and regulations, you’ll want to periodically update your employee handbook. To do so, you’ll need to keep an eye on new laws and regulations or changes to existing ones that will impact your company and make the appropriate edits.

In order to stay in the loop, it’s helpful to use resources like the Summary of the Major Laws of the Department of Labor and the Learn about Business Laws and Regulations guide. If you find it difficult staying abreast of changes, you may also want to consult a human resources outsourcing firm for help to ensure that you cover all of the bases.

Creating and maintaining an employee handbook is important on many levels. Besides keeping your company in the clear from a legal standpoint, it can improve the quality of your relationships with employees and create a more cohesive workforce.