What’s in Your Handbook? 7 Things that MUST be There!

Like snowflakes, no two organizations are exactly alike – and neither are any two employee handbooks. Nevertheless, here are seven key policies/topics that your employee handbook should contain.

  1. General employment information. Orientation day can be an overwhelming experience for a new employee. An employee handbook provides a tangible takeaway by creating an employee-held record of policies such as company organization, job classifications, compensation, benefits, performance evaluation, probationary periods, and termination procedures. A handbook written in clear language serves as a great reference to your new and current employees alike.
  2. Remind employees of your expectations. Every college professor knows to write a syllabus to inform students of their expectations and obligations for coursework. Take a page from your past teachers and let your employees know what is expected of them. Identify work hours, leave policies, timekeeping (for non-exempt employees) and other expectations clearly and concisely.
  3. Discuss your non-discrimination policy. According to federal law, your organization must provide a welcoming environment for individuals of any race, color, religion, sex or national origin in addition to protections for other groups. Make your organization’s policies on discrimination clear in the employee handbook.
  4. Clarify safety procedures. An injury on the job is bad for both employer and employee. Make sure to cover safety procedures, including compliance with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations – including the requirement that all workplace incidents and potential safety hazards be reported to management.In addition, don’t neglect other aspects of employee safety, including procedures for hazardous weather conditions. Be sure to include procedures that safeguard against workplace property theft and your policies on workplace violence.
  5. Inform employees of your social media policies. Loose lips can sink ships – and in today’s highly networked world you need a set of policies on employees’ use of social media and social networking sites. Many organizations have faced embarrassment and damage to their image and reputation as a result of errant Facebook posts or blog entries. Freedom of speech is protected, of course, but you can implement a clear policy regarding dissemination of confidential or sensitive workplace information. You should also include a policy regarding to whom employees should direct media inquiries.
  6. Do not forget to include policies on harassment and sexual harassment. It is very important that your organization be a safe place free of harassment and conducive to working. Your policy should state that your organization does not condone or excuse harassment of any kind and that you are committed to providing an environment that is free from any form of harassment.
  7. Finally, write your handbook in plain language. No one wants to sift through page after page of stiff, legalistic language. Make the tone clear and approachable – so employees might actually want to read it! The consequences of a convoluted handbook may not be limited to simple employee confusion of your policies and procedures. It can also serve to create legally binding obligations that you didn’t intend. Including a simple statement at the very beginning of the handbook that the employment relationship is at-will can clarify this at the outset.
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