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Tips For Planning Your Employee Handbook

02/09/2016

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Why do so many companies fail to prioritize one of the most important assets they can have for their employees? 

Any human resources professional will tell you that an employee handbook is a crucial asset for a corporation. Regardless of the size of your business, you would be well advised to establish basic policies and employment guidelines that set company expectations.

This is where an employee handbook is key. An employee handbook acts as a common reference point for all employees, communicating policies, company information, and workplace standards, while also keeping you legally protected. Here are some tips to help you craft an exceptional employee handbook. 

Include the “Must Haves”

There are some components of an employee handbook that are required by either state or federal law. These components typically include:

  • policies on harassment (both sexual and other)
  • workplace violence
  • policies addressing compensation and medical leave.

While they may not be formally required by law, it is still a good idea to incorporate policies concerning protected groups of people (like those who are disabled or indigenous) to avoid any legal ramifications. Be sure to check with your state legislature to ensure that you are in compliance with all required policies.

Some “Nice to Have” Policies

While there are a seemingly limitless number of policies that should be included in your employee handbook, there are a few that are particularly useful to outline. These policies typically include:

  • Privacy Policy
  • Computer/Internet Policy
  • Termination Notice Policy
  • Progressive Discipline Policy
  • Work Attendance Policy
  • Overtime Policy
  • Work Impairment Policy
  • Conflict of Interest Policy

Some other useful policies to include might deal with pregnancy/parental leave, vacations, and employee benefits. With these types of policies clearly set forth in your handbook, it will be much easier for you to answer inevitable employee questions with consistency.

Communicating Your Employee Handbook

Having an employee handbook will do you no good if your employees do not read it. Unfortunately, you cannot hold an employee accountable for a policy they are not aware of, but you can hold an employee accountable for having read the employee handbook, in which all of your policies are contained.

One way to do this is by requiring all new employees to acknowledge in writing that they have read and understand the employee handbook, cover to cover. Another, possibly more beneficial, idea is to make a game out of knowing the employee handbook. Run a contest for several weeks where the first employee to email back the specific page number of the policy gets a reward. Incentivizing reading the employee handbook will be your best bet in ensuring that your employees have actually read it. 

Mistakes to Avoid in Your Employee Handbook

You should review and update your employee handbook every year, as legislation changes quite frequently. The most prevalent issue when writing employee handbooks is not being in compliance with federal or state legislation, and that can cost you time and money when dealing with the consequences of such an oversight.

It is advisable to include a disclaimer that states that regardless of what is contained in the handbook, a disclaimer in the beginning of the manual that states that in spite of what is contained in the handbook, all cases of relevant legislation prevail. Other common mistakes include the following:

  • When policies are unclear as to whom they apply (overtime policies frequently fall into this category)
  • Conflicting versions of policies
  • Different interpretations of policies 
  • Overly detailed discipline procedure
  • Not specifying guidelines concerning meals, rest periods, and overtime
  • Policies concerning improper deductions and reimbursements
  • Putting restraints on the amount of time taken for medical leave
  • Utilizing “Use it or Lose it” vacation policies
  • Too rigid of harassment policy 

Creating an employee handbook is quite an undertaking, but if done right, it can be incredibly beneficial to you and your business.

If you do not know where to start, or would like some assistance, LBMC Employee Partners can help you. We have all the resources and expertise that you need to create the perfect employee handbook. Learn more about our human resources services.

Posted in: Human Resources
Tagged with: Employee Handbook