An employee handbook can be one of the most important documents you produce as an employer. A well-drafted employee handbook can help your employees feel more comfortable in their jobs, because they know what is expected of them and the proper procedures to follow. It also can show your desire as an employer to comply with all applicable laws, as well as putting you in a strong position to defend against lawsuits.
Once you have your business's handbook ready to go, there's one more order of business to attend to, and that is making sure your employees sign an employee handbook acknowledgement form, which certifies that they have received the information. After all, having a handbook sitting around won't do much good when you need to protect your company if you have no proof that your employees received a copy.
Employee Handbook Basics
While the content and style of employee handbooks vary by industry and specific business, there are some items that most have in common. You may find there is considerable overlap between the content of the employment agreement you have with individual employees and the content of the employee handbook.
This simple employee handbook checklist can assist you as you produce your company's document. An employee handbook should include:
- Policies required by law, which may include medical leave, equal employment, nondiscrimination, and workers' compensation policies
- Policies concerning sick days, vacation time, and other types of leave
- Procedures and guidelines concerning payroll and compensation
- Policies specific to talent issues, including promotions and performance reviews
- Benefits, with links out to more in-depth information such as summary plan descriptions
- Employee conduct, including break times, internet usage, and dress code
An extremely important item to consider for inclusion in employee handbooks is your company's sexual harassment policies and procedures, so that employees understand the chain of command for reporting any incidents.
You also may want to include a brief description or history of your business, so that employees get a better feel for the company's culture. A short section outlining your company's past—and your philosophy as you look into the future—can do wonders for figuratively getting your employees onto the same page and building team morale. This also would be a good place to include a mission statement, as well as goals and objectives for where you see the business heading in the next five or 10 years.
Employee Handbook Acknowledgement Form
Once you've put in all the legwork to create an employee handbook that is right for your business, it's time to make sure your employees receive copies and certify that they have done so by distributing copies along with employee handbook acknowledgement forms.
The form doesn't have to be complicated, but it should include, at the least, a statement acknowledging that they have received and read the handbook. Having this simple form on file could get you off to a positive start in your employer-employee relationship, as well as helping you dodge future legal problems between you and your employees.
Ideally, you can distribute employee handbooks to new employees as they arrive, and, if you already have employees on the job who have been working without a handbook, you may wish to hand out copies and then hold a meeting with all employees so they can ask any questions they may have or otherwise clear up any issues with the handbook.
When you are ready to create an employee handbook and want to make sure you're on the right track, consider getting legal advice to be sure that you are including everything you need to include, according both to federal law and those of your state.