Why You Need an Employee Handbook (and What to Put in It)

By Jenny Rice, AVB Inc.

Let’s face it: the thought of assembling an employee handbook can be daunting, confusing and time-consuming. What should it include? Why do you even need one?

Employee handbooks are intended for both employees and employers. Employees should use them as a guide to all the policies and procedures of their company, while employers need a handbook in order to be consistent in their personnel decisions and to be able to hold employees accountable for their actions.

Before listing a company’s defined policies and procedures, the handbook should begin with an introduction that defines your business’s culture. The introduction may include:

  • an “About Us” section;
  • a company mission statement;
  • information on the company’s core values; and
  • a welcome to the new employee, which typically comes from the CEO or owner.

Your handbook can also feature photos of your workplace.

Specific rules you should include are:

  • the hours of operation or schedules;
  • breaks and lunches per federal and state law;
  • dress code;
  • attendance policies;
  • vacation/holiday and time off policies;
  • leaves of absence;
  • policies on corrective action or disciplinary warnings;
  • workplace safety; and
  • your company’s harassment policy.

Also include anything else that is applicable to your particular business that employees may need to refer to.

Write your handbook clearly and concisely, and when it’s completed, we recommended you have it reviewed by an attorney to make certain that everything stated is lawful. Employee handbooks should also be updated as often as federal and state laws change, employee policies are amended, or your company culture evolves. If there are updates to be made, you can always add an addendum instead of updating the entire handbook.

Finally, one of the most important parts of the process is to have the employee read, sign and acknowledge that they have received the employee handbook.

It is important for every organization to have a current and accurate employee handbook in place. This ensures that key company policies are clearly and consistently communicated to the staff to avoid any misinterpretation or confusion.

Jenny Rice is the Human Resource Manager at AVB Inc., publisher of YSN.