Cover your assets: Employee handbooks are key for all companies

January 27, 2017|

Employee handbook document on an office desk

Starting your own business can seem like a dream come true. Having the ability to create opportunities for others while watching your vision become a reality can be extremely rewarding. Hiring employees can be an exciting step forward but setting expectations and guidelines for your team can get lost in the shuffle.

As an employer, you are not required by law to have an employee handbook; however, it is in the best interest of the company and its employees to do so.

For starters, providing your staff with an employee handbook communicates what is expected from them by the company in a clear and consistent manner. Having policies related to attendance, dress code and harassment not only define the culture of your organization but also provide the structure that many employees need to fulfill their roles successfully.

Additionally, employee handbooks communicate what employees can expect from the company. This may include such information as available benefits, company holidays and workplace safety plans. Providing a written document that communicates this information not only empowers employees to answer frequently asked questions but also frees up time for human resources and management.

Another reason to create an employee handbook is CYA – cover your assets. At some point in the life of your business, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a Department of Labor or EEOC claim or complaint. Having an updated employee handbook that documents your policies and procedures plus the documentation to support that you followed those polices can protect your reputation and play a huge role in the outcome of frivolous claims against the business. Now that you know why it is so important to have an employee handbook, what do you do next?

Creating an employee handbook can be challenging and if not worded carefully, can do more harm than good. The key is documenting policies in an objective, unbiased way and being sure that all polices apply to all employees the same. Proceed with caution when creating polices that exclude some or create even the appearance of favoritism will lead to problems down the road.

Once you’ve created your handbook, I strongly recommend that you have a human resource professional and maybe even an employment attorney to review it before distributing it to your team to ensure that the handbook is in alignment with current employment laws.

Finally, once you have your brand-new handbook, it’s best to distribute it to your entire team preferably at the same time during a staff meeting. Doing so will allow all the members of your team to give feedback or get clarification on any policy that isn’t clear to them and will give you an opportunity to have everyone to sign a written acknowledgment. That will document that they have received and understand they are responsible for knowing the information in the handbook. This prevents selective amnesia in the future.

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