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The 9 Items You Need to Include in Your Employee Handbook

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Your employee handbook can be the backbone for your business if it is well written. It should also be clear, consistent, and positive. When writing your handbook, think about it from all points of view too. What does each person in your business need? It is vital to include policies that you and your leaders can enforce. Do not put a policy in your handbook if you are not going to enforce it.


Top Reasons for an Employee Handbook


It defines expectations

Everyone should know and understand your expectations. If they need to know the process to ask for medical leave, they should be able to look it up. Then, they can follow up with their manager or HR for additional questions. You should compile ideas to ensure you cover your bases, but also think about being creative as well. Also, reflect on how you want to portray your business to others. 


New team members know what to do

Being a new team member is daunting especially before your first day of work. They need to know work hours. They should also know the dress code, parking, and break times. Any questions they have should be in your employee handbook as well. This will help ease their anxiety about starting a new job.


It is a reference book 

Your manual should be reference book for your entire workforce. Likewise, the handbook can clearly spell things out for anyone who is unsure of a policy. Also, appoint someone to compile frequently asked questions. Think about addressing some of those questions in your next handbook as well. 


It offers employee protections

If you have policies such as sexual harassment and diversity, employees know you want to protect them too. Sure, you may be including them because you’re supposed to. However, it can create a sense of relief to incoming employees. Plus, they will appreciate your dedication to their safety. Also, it sets clear expectations and shows your business that you do not tolerate certain behaviors. Besides, you do not want troublemakers working for you.


It can be a sales tool

When hiring new employees you should mention some features in your employee handbook. Also, brag about it and brag about your business. For example, tell them about some of the policies that protect them. Discuss the benefits of working there too. Furthermore, spell out your vacation and PTO plans. Your handbook can be a great sales tool for you if it is done right.

 


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What You Should Include in Your Employee Handbook

Your handbook shouldn’t sound threatening. You should start with positive messages in all your communications. Obviously, there are some things like harassment that cannot be tolerated. However, your handbook should spread a positive message through its entirety.

Here are some key items to place in your handbook:


1. Welcome statement

In your welcoming statement, this is the time to include your mission and values. You should also discuss why your employees are important to your business. This is the first page your new employee will read. It is important to convey a very positive message in this section.


2. Disclaimers

Most states accept an employment at-will statement but check your state laws. You want to ensure e you can include it in your handbook. Employees may have questions about why it is included. You should be prepared to answer them. 

According to experts, it is important to write that your handbook is not a contract. For example, you can say, “This handbook is not a contract, express or implied, nor does it guarantee employment for any specific length of time. Although we hope our employment relationship will be long term, either the Company or you can end the relationship at any time, with or without notice, with or without reason, to the extent allowed by law.”

Also, other legal wording can include that your handbook supersedes all other documents and it is subject to change.  


3. Legal Policies

This is where you should include legal policies such as:

  • Equal Opportunity
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Commitment to Diversity
  • Nursing Mothers
  • Harassment and Complaint Procedure 

You should also include any laws that are state or local specific here as well. 


4. Employment Relationship 

This is where you should put your employment classifications and define them (exempt, non-exempt, full-time, part-time, contract, etc.). 

You should also include in this section information such as:

  • When the work week ends and begins
  • Payroll information (when and how often they get paid)
  • Meals and break periods
  • How to clock in or use the time clock app
  • Information about overtime pay
  • How to access their employee file 
  • Nepotism 
  • Separation from employment. For example, your expectation of a two-week notice if they should leave. You could also include here info regarding resignations or reference requests. 


5. Workplace Safety

In this section, you should include:

  • Drug-free workplace policy (check your state laws regarding this as some have changed)
  • Smoke-free workplace policy
  • Vaping policy
  • Workplace violence policy
  • Your company’s commitment to safety
  • Emergency closing procedures (including how employees will be notified)
  • Weapons-free workplace policy 
  • Severe weather policies and what employees should do while at work. 


6. Workplace Guidelines

In this section, make sure you put guidelines in here that employees and leaders can follow to avoid favoritism. Also, do not put in any policy where exceptions could occur. Do not allow your policies to negate another policy. 

Some policies to include here are: 

Under the use of company computers, include a statement of how it is against company policy to turn off any antivirus protection. Also, they should not make unauthorized changes to the systems too. If you have a sales or customer service team, you should also include a statement about calls being monitored (if they are).


7. Time Off and Leaves of Absence

In this section you should include information about:

  • Paid holidays
  • Vacation  
  • Sick leave (including who the employee should notify and acceptable methods). 
  • Military leave
  • Bereavement
  • Jury duty/Court appearance
  • Time off for voting
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – the Department of Labor states that employees must put the required FMLA information in their employee handbook if the employer has 50 or more employees

Many states have laws related to leave, paid time off (PTO), and even domestic violence laws. Check your laws in your area and include those time off policies in this section.


8. Employee Benefits 

Make sure you include what benefits you offer and when they become eligible. Some examples are:

  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Vision
  • Life Insurance
  • Short term/Long term disability 
  • 401(k) plan
  • Workers’ compensation 
  • Employee assistance
  • Other fun perks such as gym memberships. 


9. Employee Handbook Acknowledgement

Finally, the last page is where the employee signs they acknowledge receipt of the employee handbook. It is their responsibility to read and comply with the policies in the handbook as well. 


Final Thoughts on Your Employee Handbook

Compile a checklist of items you should include in your handbook. Also, research new laws annually. You must also verify your handbook policies follows all local, state, and federal laws. Plus, have a local attorney review your handbook to ensure legal compliance too. 

Think about what your business needs too. If your company regularly deviates from policies, then don’t publish them unless you are legally mandated to do so. Furthermore, ensure your leaders will uphold your policies and provide consistent discipline if needed. Otherwise, your company will find itself in legal trouble if you do not treat all employees equally.


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Author: Kimberley Kay Travis

Kim Travis, co-owner of Travis and Adams Consulting Group, has over 20 years’ experience in human resources and leadership roles. She has specialized knowledge in employment law, employee relations, recruiting, management consulting, leadership development, manufacturing safety programs, and writing business articles and blogs.

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