One of the most important tools in your organization is an Employee Handbook -- regardless of whether your company is in its infancy or has been in business for decades. Having an Employee Handbook communicates to workers basic, yet important information pertaining to their employment, including, rules, policies, and procedures. Although an Employee Handbook can change over time to adjust to changes in your company culture or outside influences, such as changes in law or social media, it is vital to have a document in place to make sure employees understand their rights, duties, and obligations.
Perhaps the most important aspect of your Employee Handbook is the introduction of new employees to your corporate culture and how they will fit in. This may be the first thing they read when they begin their new job. Although it outlines corporate policies, it can also explain the benefits and social responsibility activities in which the company partakes, like volunteering or supported charities. An Employee Handbook should cover benefits, disciplinary procedures, harassment and discrimination policies, safety, wages and working hours, and more. Here are just a few things you might want to consider preparing your handbook:
What benefits do you offer?
Whether it’s a 401(k), profit sharing, stock options, commuter benefits, healthcare, or discounts at retail stores or local sporting events, you should include a section about benefits, if you offer them. Employees like to read about the benefits offered and see this as a positive to joining the company.
What is the dress code?
If you are going to have a specific dress code you may want to include it. Be specific as to the dress (collared shirt, no jeans for example) and list any days or times that are considered “dress down” days and exactly what is expected on those days as well.
What is the personal phone and computer use policy (bring your own device / BYOD)? Is the use of social media allowed as it relates to your company? Will you allow employees to use their personal phones or headphones during office hours?
Businesses can lay out what personal items an employee can and can’t use during working hours. Likewise, with the proliferation of social media, you may also want to include what an employee can and cannot post on their social media sites as it relates to the company.
What is your time off policy?
Explain what kind of personal time off you offer, whether it is paid or unpaid, how many vacation days an employee get and whether is it based on time of service at the company. Please keep in mind that certain types of time off are enforceable by law (such as maternity leave or FMLA leave).
What does an employee do if they have a complaint?
Many employees do not know if they should contact their manager, tell another employee, or write an anonymous letter, if they have a complaint concerning a matter of their employment. The Employee Handbook should lay out the chain of events if an employee has a complaint from anything involving discrimination to breakroom/kitchen cleaning. It is better for the employee to go to directly to management than to feel threatened or to share their opinion with internal or external contacts, potentially creating a much bigger problem than the initial issue.
In any event, ignorance of company policies on the employee side can lead to misunderstandings and negligence resulting in poor performance. By signing the Employee Handbook, employees are attesting that they understand the contents therein, and promise to abide by the policies. Give employees sufficient time to read the handbook and encourage questions or feedback to you or your HR manager. Having all of this in writing helps you comply with federal and state employment laws as well, while possibly giving you some protection if legal issues arise.
Employees who know what to expect and have guidelines are generally happier at work. With your Employee Handbook, management is held accountable along with employees, and both parties must abide by set guidelines. When they do, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Handbooks that are well-written and consistently enforced can protect an employer involved in employment litigation with one or more employees. If you are thinking of creating or revising an Employee Handbook for your business, please contact one of our experienced employments attorney at Moustakas Nelson LLC.