Employee handbooks are the guiding document for the employer-employee relationship. Without one, you will be left trying to remember how you last handled a situation, treating employees inconsistently, and spending your time answering employee questions. In addition, a handbook is often a critical document for providing legally required information to employees and defending employee claims and lawsuits. In fact, I have even seen unemployment claims overturned thanks to a well-written employee handbook and acknowledgment form.
Employee handbooks should include:
■ a welcome letter and information about your company (e.g., vision/mission, values, philosophy) and the business.
■ key employment policies that apply to your business. Examples of these include Equal Opportunity Employer, At Will Employment, and Anti-Harassment.
■ policies related to employee schedules, pay, and performance management. These include time sheets, work hours, leave requests, and performance review approach.
■ policies related to standards of conduct. Examples include policies about outside employment, disciplinary process, and dress code.
■ workplace policies that address topics such as weather and emergency office closings, grievance resolution, and use of mobile phones.
■ employee benefits overview.
■ information technology policies such as internet code of conduct, email and social media policies, and security.
A couple of things to keep in mind when developing an employee handbook:
■ Only include policies that are applicable to the majority of employees. Information on items that affect only a few employees should be distributed separately.
■ Be careful not to create any implied employment contracts or legal obligations. To help mitigate this, include at-will employment statements and contract disclaimers such as:
– Employment is at will and may be terminated at any time by either the employee or the employer. The at-will nature of employment may not be modified by any oral or written statement made either before or during employment.
– Nothing in the employee handbook creates or is intended to create a contract of employment.
– Policies in the handbook provide information and guidance to employees, but the company reserves the right to amend or change the policies at its discretion with or without notice to employees.
■ While disclaimers are important, The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken action against employers it deems to have included overly broad disclaimers in employee handbooks. One approach for helping to prevent this is to include a statement such as:
“Nothing herein prevents employees from discussing the terms and conditions of employment or to engage in protected concerted activities relating to the terms and conditions of employment” or “I understand that this Handbook does not restrict employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act, which supersede any possible interpretation of the rules in this Handbook”.
■ The last page of the employee handbook should be an acknowledgment form that is signed and dated by the employee and then placed in the employee’s personnel file.
■ Have your handbook reviewed by an employment attorney before distributing to employees.
are a key tool for communicating with employees
and, if done right, they can save you tremendous time, money, and energy!
YOUR TURN: What policies do you include in your employee handbook? Please leave your reply below.