An Employee Handbook is a written set of policies, procedures and practices often provided to new employees at the start of their employment and is designed to provide employees with guidance, expectations and other information related to their employment. While there is no law requiring an employer to create and issue an Employee Handbook, all employers should consider having one. There are four reasons why creating and maintaining an Employee Handbook is beneficial:
1. Employee Handbooks set realistic expectations.
Employee Handbooks outline the employer’s expectations for workplace conduct and should clearly describe policies and procedures to which employees should adhere. When these policies and procedures are violated, the handbook should also clearly describe what and how misconduct will be disciplined. In addition to employee expectations, Employee Handbooks should include what employees can expect from the employer.
2. Employee Handbooks assist the company with applying policies uniformly and fairly.
A frequent claim made against employers is that the employer failed to treat an employee fairly. Employee Handbooks help ensure that all employees are made aware of the employer’s policies and practices so that when conflicts arise, the employer enforces policies uniformly and fairly according to those described in the handbook.
3. Employee Handbooks provide guidance for supervisors.
Supervisors are often the front-line observers of misconduct and generally are the first level of employee disciplinary authority. Employee Handbooks can empower supervisors to manage and resolve conflict by using the handbook as a roadmap for workplace issues.
4. Employee Handbooks help fulfill legal obligations.
Some states require employers to distribute certain legal notices, policies and laws to their employees in writing. For employers obligated to do so, many find that the Employee Handbook is the best place to fulfill those legal obligations. Employers may find it beneficial to include policies related to anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, certain employee benefits, and laws related to the employer’s industry and location.
Once developed, it’s important that employers maintain the Employee Handbook and keep it updated as laws change. Employment laws vary by business type, size and location. Ensuring your company’s handbook remains current and legally sound is a critical component in protecting the company and defending against lawsuits.