An employee handbook is an important manual that outlines your company rules and expectations for employees. While the handbook is designed to inform and protect the welfare of you and your workers, the document is only as good as its contents.
Ensure the effectiveness of your employee manual by including the following important ingredients.
1. Welcome and introduction. Take the opportunity to welcome employees and introduce the company. Briefly share company history, including facts, such as how the business got started and when. Also use this section to express the company motto and mission. For instance, if you're a computer consulting firm that depends on word-of-mouth advertising to increase business, make it clear in the introduction that superior customer service is your top priority.
2. At-will employment statement. This section stipulates that employees are employed for an indefinite duration and just as they are free to terminate employment at any time, you as the employer can also let the employee go for any reason at any time.
3. Equal opportunity commitment. State in this section that employees are entitled to equal opportunity employment and that the company adheres to all state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring and employment.
4. Policy against sexual harassment and discrimination. This section expresses the company's commitment to providing a workplace free of harassment and discrimination and outlines steps employees should take if they deem that complaints are warranted.
5. Payment policies and benefits. Outline in this section everything employees need to know about payment, including when paychecks are issued, information on reporting hours, what constitutes overtime and policies for taking time out of the day for meals. This part of the manual should also cover employee benefits, such as paid sick leave, vacation time, holidays and any existing health and retirement benefits.
6. Expense reimbursement guidelines. If you allow employees to incur expenses while on the job, outline what sort of expenses qualify, such as travel, mileage and parking, and give clear guidelines for how employees can get reimbursement for those expenses.
7. Rules regarding employee conduct. This section of the employee manual is likely to be lengthy, so break it down into various categories, such as the following:
- Job performance standards and performance review guidelines.
- Workplace behavior, including what constitutes professional behavior, the importance of punctuality and attendance and rules for interacting with clients.
- The company dress code.
- Warnings against inappropriate behavior and insubordination and what steps will be taken if the employee is found to step out of line. List the various types of prohibited behaviors, such as drinking on the job, and the disciplinary procedure for breaking the rules. Clearly state how an employee's poor behavior can result in a warning or reprimand and what constitutes grounds for termination.
8. Health and safety concerns. Outline how safety always comes first, about workplace security and what to do in an emergency or if violence erupts.
9. Employee privacy guidelines. This section outlines the rights employees have in terms of their privacy regarding the use of company telephones, e-mail and Internet use. Detail what behaviors are considered inappropriate regarding the use of company communication devices and when such behavior may incur disciplinary action.
10. Employee files and corresponding rights. Here you should outline how the company keeps a file on each employee and what is contained in the file. The section should also guarantee that employee files are kept in a secure location and are considered confidential. State that employees may also request to look at their files whenever they choose.
11. Non-Disclosure Agreements and Conflicts of Interest Statements. If your company's success depends on the protection of sensitive information, a section on the importance of employees' safeguarding information is warranted, as well as what employees should do if they feel that there has been a security breach. Also outline in this section what constitutes conflicts of interest and what will happen if an employee is found to have a conflict of interest.
12. Receipt and acknowledgment page. Place at the end of the handbook an acknowledgment and agreement page that employees must sign and return. Such a form states that they have read the entire manual and understand its contents and will abide by the rules of the company. Once signed, file the document in each employee's file.
Knowing what to include in your employee manual is the first step to assuring that you and your employees are on the same page.
A freelancer since 1985, Julie Bawden-Davis has written for many publications, including Entrepreneur, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle. Julie blogs via Contently.com.