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What Should Be Included in Your Employee Handbook?

Harbor America - Oct 30, 2018 7:00:00 AM

Your employee handbook is the go-to literature for your new hires, and it serves as a handy reference for long-term employees, as well. It's an essential document in any company, and it's important for you to ensure it's thorough and easy-to-understand.

an image of an employee handbook on a desk alongside glasses and pens

Does anyone even read the employee handbook? Why take the trouble to perfect this document? They do read it, or at least they should. A well-written handbook sets the tone for a positive experience with your company and helps save time and resources.

The Benefits of a Thorough Employee Handbook

First and foremost, your employee handbook sets your expectations: your new hires knows exactly what they are getting into, and that clarity can make it easier to address discipline or productivity issues down the road. If the handbook is precise, it can even help protect you in a lawsuit.

A handbook is a reflection of your organization, so you want it to be well-organized, clear, and free of mistakes. This reassures your new employee you care about the way you do things. It shows your company understands its own mission and wants everyone else to understand it, too.

A good handbook also saves resources by cutting down on the number of questions your new hire asks your staff members. When everything is addressed and carefully explained in the handbook, your newest employees find clarity on the subject at hand without having to ask your veteran employees. Besides, if your handbook isn't clear in the first place, your old employees might not be sure about certain things, either, and they might accidentally share incorrect information with the new hire.

What to Include in Your Employee Handbook

Some handbook topics are required by law: the U.S. Department of Labor outlines items that must be included. These laws may vary from state to state. This article mentions several important handbook sections, some of which may be required in your state and some of which are just a good idea, including:

  • Non-discrimination policy
  • Policies on vacation, sick leave, family leave, holidays, etc.
  • Policies on reporting unacceptable behavior or resolving conflicts
  • Company history, vision, and mission statement
  • Disclaimers (this is not a contract, these policies are subject to change, etc.)
  • Employee conduct and dress code
  • Policies on meal and snack breaks
  • Social media policies (if and when social platforms can be used during work hours and what type of work-related material can be shared)
  • Employee benefits
  • Payment schedule and details
  • Paths to promotions, bonuses, and professional development
  • Employee acknowledgment (employee signs to acknowledge that he or she has read the handbook)

Your company and culture may require additional sections to address policies and expectations unique to you or your industry. Failing to include vital information or including too many (or not enough) details regarding a particular policy can confuse a new hire and leave you vulnerable to legal action from disgruntled employees. Because it's impossible to mention every potential scenario or consideration, for example, it may be best to be more general in certain sections rather than risk leaving something off an already lengthy list.

Get Your Employee Handbook Right

Hiring a PEO to help you develop your handbook is an easy way to make sure you stay compliant with all laws regarding what must be included in the handbook. It also ensures a clear, thorough finished product to present to your new hires. It saves your company time and resources in the development stage and helps you prevent costly mistakes. Contact Harbor America to learn more about employee handbook development and how we can help you create or update employee handbooks, training manuals, and more. 

Topics: Human Resources- HR- HR Tips- Tips for Small Business Owners- Risk Management- Workplace Culture

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