It may seem like a chore to keep an up-to-date employee handbook, but if you run a company, utilizing one is crucial for the success and security of your business.
An employee handbook is an important tool for communication between you and your employees. A good handbook should put forward your expectations for employees as well as describing what they can anticipate from your company. A well-written employee handbook can help you avoid costly litigation and claims against your company, either from current or former employees or the customers they serve.
Most Common Elements of an Employee Handbook
Conflict of Interest Statements
Conflict of interest statements and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) help you protect trade secrets and propriety information. Without one, an employee could leave your company to work for a competitor and take all they know about your projects and clients with them.
Describe how your company will make required deductions for state and federal taxes, as well as any voluntary deductions for your company’s benefits programs. You should also detail your policies regarding pay increases, overtime pay, breaks, and bonuses.
Outline your company’s policies regarding normal work hours, punctuality, absences, calling in sick, and working overtime. If you allow flexible schedules or telecommunication, spell out your policies regarding work outside the office.
Make sure your handbook outlines any compulsory or voluntary benefits, along with your policies for employee eligibility.
To comply with local and state laws, your employee handbook should outline your policies regarding family medical leave, military leave, jury duty and maternity/new parent leave. You should also detail your policies for vacation, bereavement, and sick leave.
Safety and Security
Describe how your company complies with occupational and workplace safety laws, as well as your employees’ responsibility under federal law to report any accident, injury, or safety hazards to management immediately.
Harassment and discrimination based on sex, race, religion, age, disability or national origin is prohibited by federal law. Describe your duty as an employer to create an equal-opportunity workplace and to abide by laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employees also have responsibilities towards clients and each other that should be spelled out clearly in your handbook.
Standards of Conduct
Clarify how you expect your employees to look and act. If you have a company uniform or dress code, include it here. It is also a good idea to write about several hypothetical client-employee interactions and detail how your employees are expected to handle them – for example, if you run a restaurant, all your servers should know what to do when a customer complains about the food.
Computers and Internet Use
Your company handbook should outline policies for computer and internet use, including letting your employees know if their web browsing or email is being monitored by the company. You should also have standards for the secure storage of client information.
Have your Employees Sign Off on Your Handbook
Make sure every employee in your company has access to a copy of the handbook and has signed a document affirming that they have read it and will abide by its rules. These signed documents could save you thousands of dollars down the road – for example, if an ex-employee sues for wrongful termination and you can prove that he or she was actually filed for violating company policies.
With a clearly-worded and comprehensive employee handbook, employers can avoid all kinds of trouble down the road. By creating an employee handbook and collecting signed statements from all employees that they have read and understand the handbook, you can protect your business from legal action and its costs.