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HR Policy handbook on an office desk

Employee handbooks are a powerful tool. Well-written employee handbooks are much more than just rules and regulations, they are a business staple for both employees and stakeholders because they set appropriate expectations for your employees. 

Creating a company handbook helps to introduce new hires to the culture, outlines what is expected of them, and discusses management best practices to ensure a healthy workplace environment. It also acts as a resource for employees to outline who they can and should go to if there are problems. This makes team members feel safe and heard, further fostering a healthy work environment, healthy manager-employee relationships, and better performance.

Are there repercussions if your business doesn’t have an employee handbook?

While there are no state and federal regulations on employee handbooks, not having one could end you up in court. Clearly setting standards from the beginning in a written document that is signed and reviewed by all employees can help to safeguard your business from potential lawsuits. According to The Hartford, the average cost of an employment court case is $88,000, so it can save your budget and your reputation. 

What should be included in an employee handbook?

The first portion of your employee handbook should include your mission, vision, values, code of ethics, and code of conduct. This section should give employees an understanding of their work environment and what is expected of them. This section includes topics like the dress code, internet usage and social media policies, as well as ethics information and ADA accommodations. 

Another important section of your handbook includes all of the policies and practices based on business legalities. This is the section that your lawyer should spend the most time reviewing. It should include legal information about your company, human resource information, employment laws, and health and safety policies. You should include your anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and LGBTQ+ rights policies in this section.Ensure that your employees understand the repercussions of violating these policies by including a disciplinary policy. 

The section that employees will have the most interest in is the policies based around their benefits and compensation. In these policies, you should outline payroll policies, taxes, employee evaluations, and bonuses. There should also be an itemized and detailed section outlining their benefits, including health insurance, life insurance, tuition reimbursement, paid time off, vacation time, and more.

Setting the level of professionalism throughout your employee handbook is extremely important. This gives employees, especially those that have just recently started, a clear understanding of attendance policies, breaks, lunch periods, and how to contribute to a healthy and productive work environment. Outline clearly the work environment that is expected to be upheld and any time tracking measures your company has in place. 

At the end of the handbook, employees should provide their signature acknowledging that they have read and understand all of the policies. This will protect your business should any lawsuits arise.

Employee Handbook Outline

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Who should contribute to the employee handbook?

Employee handbooks are typically a team-led effort by the stakeholders and CEO of the company, the human resources team, and the company attorney. 

Outsourcing your employee handbook is recommended. HR experts can help you craft and tailor your handbook, ensuring that everything that needs to be discussed is covered and your employee manual is a representation of your company that you are proud to distribute. 

How do I know when to update my handbook?

A general rule of thumb is to review and update your employee handbooks each year. This allows you the opportunity to include the most current labor law updates and check that all of your policies are still accurate. 

Your business should also have a lawyer conduct a legal review of your employee handbook every 3 years. Bringing legal counsel onboard can help eliminate any loopholes that could be found in your handbook, protect your legal rights as a business owner, and protect your employees’ rights as well. 

How has the pandemic altered the importance of an employee handbook?

The global coronavirus pandemic has altered the way we do business, which in turn has altered how we handle human resources issues. Twenty-seven percent of HR representatives revised their employee handbooks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has prompted many businesses to update their employee handbook to add a mask policy, amend or add their work from home or remote work policy, as well as their policy on leave based on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Businesses heavily impacted by travel restrictions may have added policies for quarantine for traveling as well as expenses for when telecommuting is not an option. Policy updates can also include travel policies for domestic and global restrictions and what is deemed essential versus nonessential.  The pandemic has proven how important it is to keep your employee handbook relevant to current events to support employees and protect your livelihood as a business. The experts at RAI Resources can help you create a customized employee handbook or overhaul your current outdated handbook. Partner with us to see great results.