An employee handbook describes the company's policies, procedures, and guiding principles. The purpose of the manual is to ensure that employees have a clear and complete understanding of company policies that affect their work, pay, and benefits. It is important that every company has a comprehensive employee manual to avoid any legal issues that may arise and to support its employees. You can write an employee handbook that includes guidelines and rules regarding compensation, employee benefits, and your company's standard of conduct. You should also discuss company policies regarding the safety of all employees. Make sure to use an approachable tone and clear language in the manual so that it is easy for your employees to follow.
Part 1 of 5: Write an Introductory Section
Step 1. Start with a general introductory paragraph
The employee handbook should include a general introductory paragraph that outlines the purpose of the handbook. You should welcome the employee and discuss the company's goal of being a rewarding workplace for its employees. You should also reiterate the importance of the relationship between the employer and the employee.
For example, you might write: "We are confident that you will find (company name) a dynamic and interesting workplace and we anticipate your contribution to our continued success. We regard our employees as our most valuable resource. This manual will serve as a guide to the relationship between employer and employee "
Step 2. Include a disclaimer stating that the manual is not a legal contract
You should also ensure that the introduction to the manual contains a disclaimer in which you specify that the manual is not a legal and binding contract between the employer and the employee. This will help avoid legal disputes and protect your business in the event that any legal issues arise in the future.
For example, you can write: "This manual only contains general information and guidelines. It is not a legal and binding contract and does not act as a contractual right to remain employed by the company."
Step 3. Mention that the company can fire the employee at its discretion
This is another important disclaimer that you should include in your employee handbook. You should make sure to mention that the company is not required to retain employees and that it can fire any employee at its discretion. This will ensure that employees do not view the manual as a contract and that the manual cannot be used as such in court.
For example, you can write: "You can be fired at any time with or without cause and without prior notice from the company. You can also resign at any time."
Step 4. Include an employee recognition page
You should also include an acknowledgment page that the employee must sign. This will ensure that the employee agrees to the terms of the manual and will mean that the employee understands the policies in the manual.
You can find sample employee recognition pages through the website of the Society for Human Resource Management and the website of the National Federation of Independent Business America
Part 2 of 5: Addressing Compensation and Employee Benefits
Step 1. Review local requirements for employee manuals
Most federal or state governing bodies require companies to provide a clear and detailed salary policy in the employee handbook. Each location has different labor laws and will require you to include different information about employee wages in the manual. Familiarize yourself with the local laws to make sure you cover all the requirements.
You can check federal laws for employers through the Department of Labor website if you live in the US or the website of the equivalent entity in your country. Make sure you are clear about the requirements in your company manual before creating any policies or expectations
Step 2. Describe the salary policy
The employee handbook should mention your legal obligations regarding the pay schedule and overtime pay. Employees need to know how often they will be paid and if they will be paid for working overtime. You should describe the expected hours of work for employees depending on whether they work part-time or full-time.
- Includes descriptions of exempt and nonexempt employees. Exempt employees are typically senior managers, and the laws regarding minimum pay, overtime, and other wage practices do not apply to them.
- The description should include the definition of overtime (for example, working more than 9 hours a day, 40 hours a week, on holidays, etc.). Be sure to mention that employees will be compensated for travel or work preparation time.
- You should also mention company policy on breaks and lunchtime, such as how long employees will be allowed for these breaks. This will ensure that employees know what to expect in terms of managing their time.
Step 3. Discuss workers' compensation
In the employee manual, you should also discuss the compensation packages that your company offers to its employees. This can include bonuses, stock options, and salary increases over time. Make sure you offer pay packages that are realistic and affordable for the company as you may have to meet these commitments in the future.
Step 4. Include employee benefits
Federal or state laws may require the business to offer employee benefits, such as health benefits, dental benefits, and life insurance. These employee benefits should be briefly described in the manual. You should not go into specific details as your benefits policy may change and you should not include outdated or incorrect information in the manual.
- Be sure to mention who qualifies for benefits, such as full-time employees, part-time employees, and their families and spouses. You should also explain the criteria for enrollment in benefit plans and when they can be changed, such as in the case of a marriage or the birth of a child.
- The benefits guide should also include details about any company-sponsored savings or retirement plans. Make sure to include any relevant policies, such as matching contributions or accrual periods.
Step 5. Describe the employee reimbursement policies
For businesses where employees may be required to use their property or personal travel for business purposes, you will need to describe the reimbursement policy for these expenses, if any. Make it clear which expenses are the responsibility of the company and which are the responsibility of the employee. Describe the process for obtaining approval for reimbursement and listing expenses.
Step 6. Mention the company's license policy
The law requires you to implement licensing policies. You must have family and medical leave in place that provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or care of a child, to care for an immediate family member with a serious health problem or if the employee develops a serious health problem. Check local policies regarding unpaid family leave.
- You should also explain company policies regarding vacation, such as how much vacation time will be given to employees per year as part of their employment. You must describe the amount of time they will be given for the death of a family member or for medical leave.
- Be sure to discuss your company's vacation policy, including how vacation is earned and how to request time off. You should include a list of holidays the business celebrates, with clear details on when the business closes or stays open during the holidays.
Part 3 of 5: Describe the company's standard of conduct
Step 1. Mention the company's general expectations of its employees
The employee handbook should describe the values you would like to see in your employees and your expectations of them. You should discuss how you would like employees to behave and communicate in the workplace. You should also mention a contact person that employees can speak to if they have any questions or need clarification.
- You should also maintain a positive and encouraging attitude when discussing employee expectations. This will keep them interested in the manual and make it seem more accessible to them.
- For example, you can write: "We expect our employees to adhere to a high standard of professional conduct and integrity. They should be respectful and courteous about the feelings and needs of others. People who act inappropriately or unprofessionally will be subject to to disciplinary action. "
Step 2. Discuss the dress code in the workplace
If your job has a specific dress code, you should include it in the employee handbook. Make sure you are clear about the dress code requirements and specify the company's expectations for how employees should look in the workplace.
- For example, if your workplace is an office, you can set a business casual dress code. You can mention that all employees must adhere to a business casual dress code and be well groomed.
- Give visual examples of acceptable clothing and grooming as ideas may vary across social groups and generations.
- It includes specific regulations regarding beards, visible tattoos, and religious head wear.
- If your employees often perform field work on construction sites, for example, you may require them to wear protective gear or clothing at all times. You should describe these requirements in the manual so that employees know how they should dress every day for field work.
Step 3. Include a policy of equal opportunities in employment and non-discrimination
By law, many places require companies to have a clearly stated equal employment opportunity and nondiscrimination policy in their employee handbook. You must clearly state that your company prohibits discrimination in the workplace.
If you live in the US, you should also be sure to discuss the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which specifies that people with disabilities will not be discriminated against. You can find out more about the Americans with Disabilities Act on their website
Step 4. Implement an anti-harassment complaint policy
The company should also have an anti-harassment policy that clearly states that any type of harassment will not be tolerated under any circumstances in the workplace. Often times, federal or state law will require you to implement these policies for your employees.
You should have a process for filing a harassment complaint in place so employees know how to file a complaint and who to talk to about it. You can designate a human resources representative who is responsible for addressing any workplace harassment complaints
Step 5. Include a policy on digital use and conduct
You should also make sure that the employee manual includes a policy on how to properly use company computers and software in the office and outside of it. This is especially important if most of the work is done on company computers.
- Be sure to describe how employees can secure their electronic information and protect any passwords or company information on their computers. You should also mention any security measures you have in place to protect the privacy of your employees online and your company information.
- You should also establish guidelines for the proper use of computers and websites that employees can and cannot access. You want to make sure employees are clear about which websites can be accessed using the company network and mention the importance of keeping company information private when communicating via email.
- Mention any security measure that could be seen as a violation of employee privacy, explaining why it is necessary for the security of the company.
Step 6. Discuss the employee performance appraisal process
You should also include details about how employees will be evaluated for their performance in the workplace. You can include a performance evaluation metric in the manual or include general guidelines on how and when these evaluations will be done.
- For example, you can mention that employees will receive annual reviews and that positive reviews will usually lead to a pay increase or a bonus. You can also discuss the disciplinary actions that employees may be subject to if they do not receive a positive evaluation, such as a probationary period followed by a second evaluation or termination.
- In particular, mention any conduct that could result in immediate termination, such as alcohol or drug use, theft, harassment, violence, or other serious offenses.
Part 4 of 5: Discussing Security
Step 1. Describe the safety measures in the workplace
Your employees should be aware of all security measures at the facility, including security cameras, detectors, and guards. It includes any operational processes required to pass the security check. Describe any prohibited or restricted access areas, along with a clear description of who is allowed to enter it and who is not. To be clearer, you may also want to include a map showing these areas.
Step 2. Mention whether the company complies with local occupational health and safety laws
You may be required to comply with workplace health and safety laws where you live and should mention them in your employee handbook. You should mention that all employees must report any accident, injury, potential hazard, or safety-related issue to management.
You should also implement safety policies regarding bad weather or dangerous working conditions. This is especially important if your employees often do work in the field or outside of the office
Step 3. Describe the incident reporting policy
You should also include a process for reporting incidents at work, such as an on-the-job injury or theft. Your employees should know how they can report an incident and who they can talk to in the event of one.
You can include in the employee manual a detailed process for reporting incidents or express it more generally. You may want to go for a more general discussion if you think the reporting process may change in the future
Step 4. Discuss an action plan in case of an emergency
You should also include a clear plan of action in the event of an emergency, such as a fire at work or a natural disaster, such as a flood or inclement weather. You should include in the manual an exit plan on a map that employees are to follow and discuss the areas or security points outside the building.
Part 5 of 5: Use Appropriate Tone and Language
Step 1. Maintain a familiar tone
The employee handbook should be accessible and easy to read for all employees and have a familiar rather than formal or rigid tone. Try to adapt the text for all employees using a tone that is accessible and clear.
You can do this by imagining that the manual is a conversation you have with an employee in your capacity as an employer. You should use a clear and friendly tone when speaking with an employee and avoid formal or rigid language
Step 2. Avoid jargon or complex language
Labor laws can be complex but this does not mean that the employee handbook should be full of verbosity or jargon. Instead, opt for clear language and simplified terms. In the long run, including legal terms that are difficult to understand may not legally protect your company and may only alienate employees who read the manual.
You should avoid using formal terms like "management" or "authority". Instead, use "we" or "the employer" so that the employee is not overwhelmed. The tone should sound casual as employees are more likely to read the entire manual if it sounds friendly and engaging
Step 3. Stick to achievable rules and guidelines
Avoid including overly demanding or unreasonable guidelines in the manual. The manual should act as a helpful guide for employees and you should not create rules that are difficult or impossible to adhere to.
You should also keep the manual short, with just enough information to meet local requirements for employee manuals. You should not overwhelm employees with information or strict rules that are difficult to follow
Step 4. Ask a lawyer to review the manual before publishing it
The employee handbook is a crucial document that employees can use later in a legal dispute. An attorney or legal evaluation should review the manual to ensure that the wording is clear and does not hold the company liable for any future legal issues. Once approved by the legal assessment, the manual is ready to distribute to new and current employees at your company.