By Chad Taylor
There are few things in an HR person’s toolkit that are as helpful or essential as a well-written employee handbook. Not only will the handbook outline the employee’s rights, it will also clearly illustrate the employer’s expectations. These details give employers the basis upon which they can instruct and discipline employees in regards to everything from attendance, to dress code and even time-off allotments.
Employee handbooks also give the business legal justification for termination, limited protection from discrimination lawsuits and the broad criteria upon which employee performance can be evaluated for raises and promotions. Employee handbooks needn’t be fancy; just an emailed Word document will do the trick. However, keep in mind that your employee handbook must be written in compliance with federal, state and local laws to avoid legal complications.
Q: What should be in my employee handbook?
A well-written handbook covers as much ground as possible and informs incoming employees of your company expectations as well as the guidelines for each position within the company. The exact contents will differ from company to company, but things to consider adding to your employee handbook include:
- Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA’s) and Conflict of Interest Statements: having employees sign NDAs and conflict of interest statements helps to protect your trade secrets and company proprietary information.
- Compensation: Outline your legal obligations regarding withholding taxes, overtime pay, pay schedules, performance reviews, salary increases, time keeping records, breaks and bonuses.
- Work Schedules: Policies regarding work hours and schedules, attendance, punctuality and reporting absences, along with guidelines for flexible schedules and telecommuting.
- General Employment Information: An a overview of your business and general employment policies covering employment eligibility, job classifications, employee referrals, employee records, job postings, probationary periods, termination and resignation procedures, transfers and relocation, and union information, if applicable.
- Standards of Conduct: Expectations of how you want your employees to conduct themselves, including dress code and ethics. In addition, remind your employees of their legal obligations, especially if your business is engaged in an activity that is regulated by the government.
- Safety and Security: Describe your company’s policy for creating a safe and secure workplace, including compliance with the OSHA laws that require employees to report all accidents, injuries, potential safety hazards, safety suggestions and health and safety related issues to management. Safety policies should also include your company’s policy regarding bad weather and hazardous community conditions.
- Media Relations: It’s a good business practice to have a single point of contact for all media inquiries. Your employee handbook should include a section that explains how your employees should handle calls from reporters or other media inquiries.
- Employee Benefits: Detail any benefit programs and eligibility requirements, including all benefits that may be required by law. This section should also outline your plans for optional benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans and wellness programs.
- Leave Policies: Family medical leave, jury duty, military leave, and time off for court cases and voting should all be documented to comply with state and local laws. In addition, you should explain your policies for vacation, holiday, bereavement and sick leave.
Additionally, once your employee handbook is written, be sure to have employees sign an acknowledgment form stating that they have received and reviewed the handbook, and that they understand all the policies contained within. Finally, be sure to review your employee handbook once a year, to ensure that the most up to date policies are included. When revisions are made, circulate updates to all existing employees as well.