An employee handbook or manual is a booklet that provides information and guidance to employees regarding their organization's history, goals, values, practices, policies, and procedures. If created properly, an employee handbook is a valuable resource for both employees and employers that clearly defines the expectations of each party. Employee handbooks may also cover other subjects such as company dress code, compensation policies, the amount of sick time or paid time off available for employees, as well as additional employee benefits.
Employee handbooks also help prevent legal disputes between employers and employees. In order to ensure that all employees have received and reviewed the employee handbook, they may be required to sign an acknowledgment form.
Moreover, an employee handbook establishes important legal protections for employers and defines the employment relationship. For example, if an employee is fired, the “at will” policy in a well-written handbook should protect the company from legal retribution.
There are a few important distinctions between employee contracts and handbooks. First and foremost, an employment contract is legally binding while an employee handbook is not--although it should outline various company legal policies. Secondly, employee contracts are specific to each individual employee and therefore apply solely to the individual who signs one. An employee contract details the legal rights and obligations of the employee. To that extent, an employee must be consulted if an employer changes the terms of the contract.
Employee handbooks, on the other hand, detail guidelines, policies and procedures for all company employees. These include expected behaviors and practices that may not be legally binding (i.e. punctuality). Furthermore, with handbooks, employers can update the handbook as long as their revisions are sent to employees.
Handbooks give companies the opportunity to detail the expectations of all staff members in a standardized way. They also help establish the company’s standards of accountability. Additionally, they provide a platform to share the organization's culture, values, and mission with its employees, and provide a resource for employees regarding their benefits, perks, policies, and so forth.
Without a written handbook, employees may be left with an incomplete understanding of their benefits, and may therefore not fully take advantage of all you offer as a company. More seriously, an employee handbook clearly communicates expected workplace behavior and performance. Therefore, if issues arise with employee behavior or performance, a handbook makes it difficult for the employee in question to claim ignorance.
Do startups need an employee handbook to cover only a few people? We recommend any organization with more than five employees draft an employee handbook. Creating one in the early stages of the company’s development enables the founders to work out company values and policies at the ground-level and helps ensure that culture imbues future growth.
More specifically, creating a handbook allows you to sort out smaller policies, like which expenses you’ll reimburse, while those costs are still marginal.
We also recommend that family businesses create an employee handbook, even for family members. Often family operations have difficulty separating business from family. Having a written handbook should help members of a family business avoid difficult disputes over work policies that can affect relationships at home.
Here is our guide for crafting an employee handbook. We recommend that just about every company have one. Therefore, in this guide, we cover how to create one, what to include, why you need one, how to roll one out to your employees, and how to keep it up-to-date. We think this guide has everything you need to create a handbook that will serve as a vital asset to both your company and its employees.
Before starting, you will want to do the following:
It is important to avoid using several common phrases and topics in a handbook. Doing so may create potential gray-areas that could lead to a miscommunication of expectations with employees that might create potential legal ramifications. Those include:
After crafting your manual, do the following:
Again, think of your handbook as a living and breathing document. You should, therefore, update it often. Some of the components that should receive regular review and updates are:
Your company may face special circumstances specific to your industry or location. For example, several states have recently legalized the use of medical marijuana. Therefore, if your company is located in a state like California, your handbook should include a section on “Marijuana in the workplace.”
This also means that your company needs to remain diligent on staying up-to-date on new laws impacting your work environment. For example, regarding marijuana, some states prohibit employers from firing employees for the use of medical marijuana, but other states allow it, so long as the drug’s use is impairing the employee’s work performance.
Employee handbooks are an essential document for all companies and their employees. They create a clear line of communication between employer and employee regarding workplace expectations, corporate values, policies, and procedures. We hope this guide helps you get your own handbook started.
Legal considerations are industry and geographically specific. Different industries and states have different laws regarding written documentation of company policies. However, regardless of the industry or location, certain organization policies and procedures must be documented in writing. Those include, for example, anti-harassment policies and internal reporting policies (in California, specifically).
The purpose of an employee handbook is to act as a guide and reference for employees related to the policies of the company. While an employee handbook may contain various informational components, there are some basic things that every handbook should address:
Traditionally, employee handbooks explain other policies as well. These include, but are not limited to:
A comprehensive communications policy is essential to the success and branding of a business. It helps ensure that all clients, guests, and anyone who interacts with the company are treated the same way. With communications continuing to expand and involve different types of technology, it’s important to address that technology and how it should be used by employees to the benefit of the company.
Instant communication methods between team members. More and more companies have adopted the use of instant team and private messaging such as Slack. Some project management software also includes messaging. This policy should explain what is expected of the employee. For example, how often are employees required to check their messenger?
A company biography explains a brief amount of company history to the employees. It also explains the company’s mission statement and values. Employees are better engaged when they understand and support the company as a whole.
Benefits, compensation, and other incentives are influential for attracting and retaining talented employees. Sometimes, employees have questions about their benefits and their pay. This is why it is important to properly structure these sections of the handbook.
See below a few additional resources and examples of employee handbooks.
Employee handbooks act as a foundation for your company, laying the groundwork for all operational behavior, policies, and standards in relation to federal and state law. With the help from this article, you can not only create an original employee handbook that uniquely shares the voice of your company, but it also ensures that your employees operate and work in the most efficient way.
Our team at FormSwift wanted to determine which states are the best and worst for employee benefits. We created a ranking by evenly weighting the following factors to come up with a final percentage for each state: per capita personal income, average employer contribution for health insurance, number of healthcare tiers available for employees with dependents, state average pension funding for public employees, and percentage of vacation time used by employees in each state.
If you are looking for our Trump PTO vs the American Worker Study, you can find the feature on PopSugar here: https://www.popsugar.com/news/Trump-Vacation-PTO-vs-American-Worker-Firefighter-Teacher-43966533
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