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. A well-written handbook can clear up any confusion on specific points pertaining to workplace expectations…and cover yourself against any possible legal ramifications, should an employee challenge you at any point.
An employee handbook should make all important points 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. Generally, an employee handbook should cover the following:
- The basics: hours, pay policies (weekly/bi-weekly, etc.), salaries, proper dress, term of employment (contractual/at-will, depending on your state)
- 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)
- 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 state that not every single thing is mentioned, to protect yourself against someone who may evoke the “It wasn’t in the handbook” defense
You may also want to have each employee sign a form in the handbook (one copy for them to keep; one for you) stating they have read the handbook, understand it, and have asked/resolved any questions.
You must be willing to maintain and honor any policy you put in the handbook. 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.