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What Should Be Included in an Employee Handbook?

You depend on your employees for your business to thrive. You want your employees to meet, and exceed, your expectations. However, in order to do that your employees need to understand those expectations. In that regard, many employers, particularly employers with many employees, find it useful to create employee handbooks.
In addition to clearly communicating the employer’s expectations of the employee, an employee handbook can be an important document if there is later a dispute about an employment issue. Many courts not only consider the information in the employee handbook as adequate notice for employees but may also consider the employee handbook to be evidence of a contract between employers and employees. For these reasons, it is important to create a thorough and unambiguous employee handbook for your business.
What Should be Included in an Employee Handbook
Generally, your employee handbook should contain the following sections:
  • Compensation: in most cases, your compensation policy should include information on the following:
    • Payroll: employees should understand how often they will be paid and by what method (direct deposit, check etc.);
    •  Submission of hours: hourly workers should be informed as to how they should submit their timesheets for prompt payment;
    •  Holidays: a list of holidays should be provided and indication should be made as to whether the employees need to work on those holidays and how they will be compensated for the holidays.
    • Paid Time Off: a description of paid time off such as vacation time, personal time and sick time should be provided. Employees should understand how much paid time off they have given their position and years of service. Approval procedures for anticipated use of vacation time and personal time should be provided and a description of the use of sick time should be included. For example, some companies allow employees to use sick time to care for a sick child or for doctor’s appointments and other companies do not.
  • Other Benefits: a description of other benefits including time off pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), maternity leave, military leave, or short term disability should be provided. The procedures for obtaining and contributing to health insurance should also be provided. If the employer offers dental insurance, retirement benefits or tuition assistance then those benefits should also be described. 
  • Performance Reviews: the frequency and procedures for performance reviews should be included.
  • Company Behavior Policies: employee expectations should be clearly described. These may include things such as a no smoking policy, a dress code, an attendance policy, a use of company property policy and a no substance abuse policy.
  • Confidentiality of Information: if employees are expected to keep certain employer information confidential then that rule should be included in the handbook.
  • Anti-discrimination Policies: most employer handbooks contain information that discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, national origin and age are illegal and not allowed in the work place. Policies that prohibit sexual harassment are also included in these policies.
  • Complaint Procedures: employees should understand what to do if they have a complaint that the anti-discrimination policies or other employer policies were violated.
  • Discipline: discipline procedures for employees who violate the employer’s rules should also be provided.
Employee handbooks are an important business document and may have important legal ramifications for employers and employees. It is, therefore, important to draft them carefully and to consult legal counsel if you have any questions or concerns.
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