An employee handbook serves many purposes. First and foremost, it is an opportunity to welcome new employees to the organization and share its history, mission, vision, and values. The handbook often includes a note from the president or CEO to introduce the company culture. It is essentially a contract between an employer and its employees in that it details what is expected of employees and what they can expect in return from the organization. It should be written in easily understandable language and be easily accessible for everyone. In the age of digitization, employee handbooks are most commonly stored on company intranet sites, but it’s important that hard copies be available upon request, especially for employees who do not have access to computers. Since the intended audience are employees, the
handbook should be free of legal and technical jargon. That type of detailed information is more appropriate for policies and procedures manuals which managers can reference to support employees.
The following information may be included in an employee handbook:
● Equal employment opportunity statement
● Contractual disclaimer and at-will employment statement (where allowed)
● Purpose of the employee handbook
● Background information of the company
● Legal mandates that affect employees including Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), COBRA, anti-discrimination laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Failure to document such policies may lead to confusion and noncompliance with legal requirements. Compensation benefits and leave policies, work schedule and telecommuting policies, standards of conduct and employee discipline policies, as well as information relating to safety, security and use of technology should also be documented in employee handbooks. General employment information such as job classifications, accessibility, records, payroll, and overtime should be included as well. This information is important because it outlines acceptable expectations and behavior, while also serving as a valuable reference for employees.
The policies in the employee handbook should be reflective of the company’s unique culture, but must also incorporate federal, state, and local regulations. Multiple versions of the employee handbook may be needed for different job classifications, such as exempt or non-exempt workers, as well as unionized employees, if applicable. Not only does the employee handbook convey this important information to employees, but it also ensures that the organization itself is in compliance.
After the company has established its policies, HR is responsible for ensuring that the policies are current and comprehensive. Whenever there are additions or amendments, the new information must be properly communicated, documented, and acknowledged in personnel files. The employee’s signature as acknowledgement and understanding of the policies is arguably the most important part of the handbook, as it protects the employer in potential litigation.
The employee handbook is the most important internal document that a company has to disseminate to its employees. It serves as the “contract” between employees and the employer.
Does your organization need help with creating, updating, or reviewing your employee handbook? Contact us to find out how we can help.