Employee Handbook Checklist: What to Include, What Not to Include
An employee handbook is an important guide for a company’s workforce. Effective handbooks include the policies, procedures, and expectations of a business’ employees. They also provide information about pay and benefits, employment terms and conditions, and company history, purpose, and goals.
Following are essential items that should be included in a strong employee handbook.
- Disclaimer/Acknowledgment: The disclaimer spells out the purpose of the employee handbook and clearly states that it is not an employee contract. The acknowledgment, which is generally paired with the disclaimer, is signed by employees certifying they have read the handbook and agree to the employee policies and procedures included in it.
- Company Mission Statement: Most employees want to be part of a company with a defined purpose and mission they support. Clearly state your company’s mission at the beginning of your employee handbook. Include your company’s goals, vision, and values if developed.
- Employee Definitions: This section clearly defines the type of employees your company hires: full-time, part-time, and independent contractors. It lists the requirements or criteria for each, such as hours worked per week.
- Work Week Definitions: Indicate the seven-day period on which you calculate overtime. Avoid defining the work week as Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. local time as this can prevent you from asking employees to work second or third shift hours or weekends.
- General Employee Policies and Procedures: This section includes the basic policies and procedures that employees must follow at work. It clearly spells out information about pay periods, timesheets, dress code, paid time off, and other key items related to your business.
- Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Policies: Clearly state that your company has zero tolerance for discrimination against any class of employees or sexual harassment. Explain the processes workers can follow if they have a discrimination or sexual harassment complaint. Outline both employee and employer expectations and responsibilities related to discrimination and sexual harassment in your workplace.
- Time Away from Work Policies: This is a key section of the employee handbook where correct wording is critical. Clearly detail the rules and policies for requesting and taking time off from work. This includes time away from work for vacations, sick time, community service, and jury duty. It also includes leaves of absence for medical reasons, maternity leave, military service, and other extended periods away from work.
- Employee Benefits: Providing an overview of the benefits your company offers is a nice way to offset all the rules and policies included in the handbook. It’s not necessary to include specific plan details as you should have specific documents describing them.
- Disciplinary Policies: Clearly define employee misconduct and the consequences of it. Avoid the use of absolute statements so you don’t lock yourself into a concrete course of action. Use wording that allows flexibility based on circumstances surrounding the misconduct. Explain processes for recourse if employees disagree with disciplinary action taken.
- Problem Resolution Procedures: Conflicts and problems are unavoidable in the workplace. Indicate the processes employees should follow when they occur.
While there are essential things to include in an employee handbook, there are also critical things to avoid to prevent confusion or possible lawsuits.
- Outdated Policies: Do not roll out a new or revised employee policy without updating your employee handbook at the same time.
- “Permanent” Employee: Avoid using “permanent” to distinguish between “regular” company employees and contractors as it has legal implications. It implies a job guarantee.
- Probationary Period: Use the terms introductory period or orientation instead of probationary period. Probation implies that the employee’s status might change after the period has ended.