Whether you have one employee or dozens of employees, your employee handbook is the most important communication tool between you and your employees. An employee handbook explains expected behavior from both your employees and the company.
An employee handbook provides legal protections for you and employees, so it’s a good idea to have an attorney look over your employee handbook before giving it to your employees.
The introduction of your employee handbook describes the purpose of the handbook and includes an at-will employment statement. Including an at-will employment statement helps prevent a court from finding that you entered into a contract and breached the contract by terminating an employee.
The introduction should also include a statement reserving the right to amend, revise, or update the handbook at your discretion.
The introduction is also a good place to include the history of your business, your mission statement, and a welcome letter to new hires.
Anti-Discrimination & Anti-Harassment Policies
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit discrimination and harassment for any reason.
In your employee handbook, include any accommodations you’ll make for religious activities or policies regarding employees with disabilities.
Make sure that you include all types of harassment in your anti-harassment policy, not just sexual-harassment. Unlawful harassment occurs when an employer creates an unbearable workplace based on an employee’s race, national-origin, gender, or religion.
In your anti-harassment policy, include a step-by-step guide for reporting harassment, including actions that will be taken in response to reports and the consequences for employees who fail to report harassment. In your handbook, include a zero-tolerance policy for managers who fail to properly respond to a harassment complaint.
Non-Disclosure Agreements & Conflict of Interest Statements
Including a non-disclosure agreement and a conflict of interest statement will help protect your trade secrets.
Use this section to explain your legal obligations regarding any overtime pay. Also include information on pay schedules, performance reviews, salary increases, time-keeping procedures, bonus compensation, and breaks during the day.
Explain your policy on hours worked and schedules kept. Make sure to include attendance requirements, punctuality expectations, and how to report absences. Define excessive absenteeism and habitual lateness, so everyone is on the same page.
If you have a policy on flexible schedules or telecommuting, include that policy in this section. You can also describe the difference in hours worked for full-time and part-time employees.
Standards of Conduct
Discuss the dress code and inappropriate behavior. Also include any employee obligations, such as taking necessary steps to protect customer data.
General Employment Information
Use this section to discuss an overview of general employment policies, including eligibility, job classifications, employee referral procedures, employee files and records, and termination and resignation procedures.
If your new hires will start on a probationary period, discuss the length and whether they will accrue benefits during the period. Probationary periods are usually 90 days or shorter.
Make sure to discuss discipline procedures – such as written and oral warnings – and include an appeals process. Describe circumstances under which employment will be terminated. Include how much notice is to be given and how accumulated vacation will be paid.
Safety & Security
Explain how your business is creating a safe and healthy workplace, including complying with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) policies. OSHA policies include requiring employees to report accidents, injuries, and potential safety hazards to management.
Include a policy regarding inclement weather. Discuss how you will handle employee absences during severe weather, when your business remains open.
Include a commitment to creating a secure workplace. Describe your employees’ responsibilities to abiding by all physical and informational security policies, such as locking computers when not in use.
Computers & Internet
Computers and the internet are necessary for conducting business, so include policies for appropriate computer and software use and steps to be taken to secure information, particularly customer data. Include a statement regarding the company’s right to monitor employees’ use of communication systems, including phone calls, company email, and internet use on a company computer.
Also use this section to include a social media use policy. Forbid the unlawful harassment of customers on social media. Don’t allow employees to post personal information on corporate social media accounts.
To help prevent your company from being misrepresented in the media, consider appointing one person to reply to all media inquiries. Discuss how your employees should handle any media inquiries.
Use this section to detail any and all benefits programs, including those required by law, and eligibility requirements, including any waiting periods before employees receive their benefits.
Include all benefit options, including health insurance options, retirement plans, and tuition reimbursement policies.
Discuss leave required by law, such as family medical leave, military leave, and jury duty. You are required to give employees time off for jury duty, but describe how you will handle it. Explain whether you’ll pay your employees during jury duty. If you do, explain whether you’ll require them to turn in their jury duty pay.
Include your policies regarding vacation, holidays, bereavement, and sick leave.
There is no federal law requiring holiday pay if your office is closed. List specific paid and unpaid holidays you will provide each year. If you’re paying full-time employees for holidays, also explain whether you will also pay part-time employees for holidays.
If you decide to close the office on a particular day without pay, indicate how much advanced notice you’ll give.
Drug & Alcohol Use & Smoking Policy
Include a statement that employees are not permitted to use drugs or alcohol on the premises. If an employee uses drugs or alcohol on the premises, explain that this is cause for immediate dismissal.
If you allow smoking on the premises, highlight where employees can smoke.
Include acknowledgements for employees to sign saying that they’ve read and understood the handbook. Include a general handbook acknowledgement, as well as acknowledgements for computer and internet usage and your drug and alcohol policy.