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Writing an Employee Handbook

It's a big undertaking but one that will protect you. Here's what you need to include.

Having established policies written in a handbook will eliminate confusion as to what you expect from your employees. As an owner of small company, you may wish to set policies yourself and take full responsibility for drafting enforcing, reviewing and updating all information in the employee handbook. If, however, you run or manage a large business, this duty usually falls upon the shoulders of the human resources department/employee relations manager.

Either way, make sure that all policies, procedures, practices, rules and regulations are decided upon in advance, and present ideas in a simple and direct manner by choosing short words that define the company's position.

During the orientation process, each employee should receive a copy of the handbook, and any updated versions should be presented to existing employees to keep a constant flow of communication going. Sufficient feedback from employees will also help management understand exactly what kind of information would be useful to include to help an employee be effective on the job.

Items usually included in a handbook are:

  • Absences
  • Accidents
  • Benefits
  • Cleanliness
  • Coffee breaks
  • Complaints
  • Confidentiality of work
  • Decorum
  • Salary deductions
  • Discrimination
  • Dismissals
  • Emergencies
  • Fire
  • Intoxication
  • Military service
  • Misconduct
  • Office supplies usage
  • Ordering of supplies
  • Organizational chart
  • Orientation
  • Overtime
  • Parking for employees
  • Paydays
  • Pay periods
  • Pension plans
  • Personal mail
  • Personal phone calls
  • Personal visitors
  • Probationary periods
  • Professional ethics
  • Promotions
  • Re-employment rights
  • Resignations
  • Retirement
  • Salary calculations
  • Schedule of work
  • Sick leave
  • Smoking policies
  • Tardiness
  • Temporary employment
  • Time cards
  • Work evaluation
  • Work habits
  • Work periods
  • Working hours
  • Worker's compensation

Make sure when the handbook is being drafted that all practices are consistent with the company's growth plans reflect current company philosophies and objectives.

Also, two disclaimers should be included in the introduction to the handbook:
1. The handbook is not an employment contract between the employee and the organization.
2. Employees may be dismissed at the discretion of the company.

Including these disclaimers in your handbook will help you to avoid future litigation from terminated employees. When the handbook is finished, it should be reviewed by legal counsel to make sure that it's consistent with current federal, state and local employment regulations.

The employee handbook is important to your organization's growth and structure because it communicates to the employees just what the employer expects and what the company will provide in terms of a productive working environment. More importantly, it forces the employer to be consistent in the enforcement of company policy instead of allowing it to shift from person to person or situation to situation. Employees like to feel that they will receive equal treatment, regardless of the situation or position. This feeling of equality promotes a team atmosphere that's important to productivity.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of an employee handbook is its ability to focus the attention of employees on the performance of their jobs. It relieves the worries that accompany an employees's lack of understanding concerning policies and benefits.

Excerpted from The Small Business Encyclopedia.

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