An employee handbook is an essential tool for any company. They are a customizable manual that establishes rules, policies, procedures, and outlines the expected conduct for all employees to follow. Employee handbooks are drafted to protect both the company and the employees. They are designed to be a guide for employees, so they are aware of the company’s expectations and ensures a company has created a safe and healthy work environment. Each new employee should be given an employee handbook; it should be reviewed, and signed by each employee at the new employee orientation. By creating an employee handbook, the employee/employer relationship begins on trust and a mutual understanding of expectations.
When drafting an employee handbook, hiring a business attorney would ensure that the company’s unique information is taken into consideration. Examples of information would be company size, the industry the company is in, and whether all employees are in one state or multiple states. Depending on each company’s unique situation, the following list is the common sections of an employee handbook:
- An overview of the company’s goals and mission
- Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement
- Description of full time and part time employment
- Information on work hours and attendance policy
- Non-disclosure agreement
- Trade secrets
- Dress code
- Conflicts of interest
- Social media policy
- Wage and hour policy (wage, overtime, payroll policy, etc.)
- Benefits that are offered (healthcare, 401k, profit sharing, etc.)
- Paid time off (PTO), holiday hours, and a leave policy
- Disciplinary procedures
- Sexual harassment and anti-discrimination policy
- Retaliation policy
- Safety and accident policy
- Conflict resolution policy
An employee handbook should also include a disclaimer that states that the employee handbook is not a contract between the employee and the employer. It should also state the employment relationship. For example, in Minnesota, and other states, employees are considered “at will” employees and can be terminated at any time. An employee handbook should also include a provision that states the employer has the right to revise or modify the handbook without notice.
The laws regarding employee handbooks are complicated, and misstating a law in an employee handbook violates federal and state laws. Employers are encouraged to have an attorney draft the handbook for them, or at the very least, have an attorney review it. A well written employee handbook will limit the risk of litigation. An attorney can also ensure that an employee handbook is up to date and relevant to the ever changing times (ie: technology, social media, etc).