A well-written, comprehensive, legally-defensible description of acceptable workplace behavior can help save time getting new hires up to speed and lessen the likelihood of legal problems down the road. A written employee handbook can also be useful for small companies with just a few employees.

The ideal employee handbook covers all aspects of employment, including:

  • Number of sick days
  • Personal days
  • Company procedures, protocols, and systems
  • Restrictions and limitations
  • Unacceptable behaviors
  • What  steps company management will take when inappropriate behavior is identified
  • Promotion policies
  • Non-disclosure, non-compete and other legal issues sometimes faced by employees
  • Complete salary information
  • A detailed description of benefit options, e.g. health insurance options, flex-time regulations, telecommute procedures, and so on.

The more information you include in your employee handbook, the better your employees can understand the rules of working as part of your company team.

Creating an Employee Handbook

The National Federation of Independent Businesses1 and other resources provide extensive guidelines for the development of an employee handbook. So, what should you include?

Rules and regulations regarding compensation. Include wage and hour laws, tax information, and details on Worker Compensation in cases of on-the-job injury. Provide a detailed list of guidelines and in-house regulations on how compensation is determined, along with state and federal rules regarding payment of employees.

Work schedules. Include the company’s expectations regarding punctuality, absenteeism, flex-scheduling, and other matters related to when and how employees work. In this section, also include information on employee vacation time, personal leave days, paid holidays, unpaid holidays, and other information related to employee schedules.

Standards of conduct. Include everything from dress code to personal ethics. Lay out company expectations of acceptable and unacceptable conduct, and the ramifications of unacceptable behavior. Include regulations regarding non-disclosure and non-compete agreements if they apply to your business.

Anti-Discrimination Policies. Describe in detail your policies related to equal employment opportunity laws, workplace harassment, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other hiring laws and regulations that apply to all businesses. To ensure that your employee handbook is fully compliant with the law, have your handbook developed with the help of the company’s legal counsel.

General employment regulations should be a part of your company’s employee handbook. Be sure to include:

  • all applicable state and federal employment and labor laws
  • union activities
  • termination policies
  • approval to perform background checks on prospective hires and employees
  • rules governing foreign and immigrant employees

Once again, there are legal issues that must be addressed – in some cases, state by state – so seek the advice of the company’s legal professionals to develop a compliant, defensible employee handbook.

Employee benefits should be described in detail. If you offer flex benefits, describe in clear terms how employees can allocate these benefits. Also, certain benefits are mandated by law, so again, your company attorney should be consulted about terms and conditions that must be included in a fully compliant employee handbook.

Safety and security of employees, company equipment, and intellectual assets should be detailed in the company handbook. Be sure to include information on employee responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace, and procedures to follow when unsafe conditions are created or identified.

Finally, keep it simple. If your employee handbook is 60 pages of legal definitions, laws and other hard-to-digest information, the handbook will have less value because it’s less likely to be read. Take complex regulations, with numerous conditions, and do your best to simplify the language. Break large blocks of information into smaller, easier-to-understand segments. Organize the handbook with a table of contents so employees can easily find what they’re looking for.

Developing and maintaining a useful, legally compliant employee handbook is an on-going process. Update your company handbook regularly as laws change, company policy changes, and daily practices evolve and become formalized.

If your company doesn’t have an employee handbook, today’s a good day to start creating one. If your business does have an employee handbook, when was the last time it was reviewed and updated? Help protect your employees and your business with an employee handbook that provides a pathway to workplace success for everyone.

1. https://www.nfib.com/content/resources/labor/how-to-write-a-great-employee-handbook/