If you want employees to remember the rules and the ropes, it helps to have a tangible document they can get their hands on — or that you can show them — as needed. As a written record of a company’s policies, regulations, legal statements, and general information, an employee handbook can cover a number of bases, and a well-written one can clear up any confusion on specific points pertaining to workplace expectations…and cover your company against any possible legal ramifications, should an employee challenge you at any point.
1. It’s a communication tool for expectations and company policies. An employee handbook should make all important requirements and expectations clear, rather than confusing; the point is to have a document that each employee can easily consult and understand that gives uniform information to everyone — particularly new hires. This includes:
- Employee responsibilities: attendance/tardiness, discipline (what can an employee get in trouble for and what consequences follow)
- Basic conduct: Complaints (where and how to file them, assurance of no retaliation, designated staff who handle complaints, proper forms and where to find them/fill them out), workplace behavior (treat people with respect!)
- Health and safety: reporting dangerous work conditions, smoking policies, harassment policies (be very specific as to your responses to reported harassment and who an employee can report problems to, follow-up, etc.), drug and alcohol abuse (prohibition, drug testing, possible programs or counseling you offer)
- The essentials: hours, pay policies (weekly/bi-weekly, etc.), salaries, proper dress, term of employment (contractual/at-will, depending on your state)
- Electronic communications: standard policies on usage of email, Internet, social networking, blogs, etc.; monitoring of emails (if you do that); what’s private and what’s not
- Conduct NOT covered by the handbook: Good to mention in a section that not every single thing is covered, as a defensive move against someone who may evoke the “It wasn’t stated in the handbook” defense
2. It defines the employment relationship for new hires. An employee handbook establishes the at-will employment relationship, meaning an employee may be terminated at any time, for any reason — or no reason at all. Using the concept of at-will language throughout the handbook, including a signed acknowledgement page of the handbook and the application, can save you time and stress later if an employee attempts to question a termination (although accusations of retaliation, harrassment, or discrimination by the employee are not covered by such language).
3. It serves as a reference guide for both employers and employees. A well-written handbook answers all questions, cutting down on miscommunications, misunderstandings, and unreasonable expectations.
Any policy you put in the handbook, you must be willing to maintain and honor. This document serves not only as your expectations for your employees, but also vice versa: They should know how you handle situations and be able to count on you to adhere to the handbook…and update it as needed. When a handbook answers employee questions before they can even ask them, it means you’ve put together a document that will alleviate confusion and help everyone — employees and employers alike — stay on track and aware of the working relationship.
For more information on how to put an employee handbook together and what it should entail, reach out to our staffing experts today!