An employee handbook is an important tool you can use to effectively communicate information regarding your company’s policies, practices, and employee benefits. As a starting point, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) suggests including the following 8 topics:
1. General Employment Information
Provide a general overview of your business and lay out the company’s basic policies relating to employment eligibility, job classifications, and employee records.
2. Anti-Discrimination Policies
Your handbook should include a section about applicable federal and state nondiscrimination laws (such as the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII), and how your employees are expected to comply. This section is also a good place to set out your sexual harassment policy.
Clearly explain that your company will make required deductions from employees’ pay for federal and state taxes, as well as voluntary deductions for the company’s benefits programs. In addition, you should outline your obligations under federal and state wage and hour laws regarding overtime pay, pay schedules, time-keeping records, and meal and rest breaks.
4. Work Schedules
Describe your company’s policies regarding work hours and schedules, attendance, punctuality, and reporting absences, along with guidelines for flexible schedules and telecommuting, if offered.
5. Standards of Conduct
Make sure you document your expectations of how you want employees to conduct themselves, from dress code to computer and telephone use. Remind employees of any legal obligations they may have (for example, protecting customer data). It is also appropriate in this section to describe your company’s progressive disciplinary policy (if any) and other standards related to employee discipline.
6. Leave Policies
Family and medical leave, jury duty, military leave, sick leave, and time off for court cases and voting should all be documented to comply with applicable state and local laws. In addition, you should explain your policies for vacation, holiday, and bereavement leave.
7. Employee Benefits
Include details on your company’s benefit programs, including all benefits that may be required by law. This section should also outline your plans for health insurance, retirement, and any other optional benefits your company offers. Note that separate legal documents (such as a summary plan description) may also be required for employee benefit plans.
8. Safety and Security
Describe your company’s policy for creating a safe and secure workplace, including compliance with applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) laws that require employees to report all accidents, injuries, potential safety hazards, safety suggestions, and health and safety related issues to management. Safety policies should also include your company’s policy regarding bad weather and hazardous community conditions.
If your employees are employed ‘at-will,’ you should clearly state that fact and include a conspicuous disclaimer in the front of your handbook that the handbook is not an employment contract. You will also want to include a written acknowledgement by the employee that he or she has received, has reviewed, and understands the handbook, to be signed and placed in the employee’s file.
While the policies outlined in your employee handbook will reflect your company’s own unique culture, it is important to consider federal, state, and local laws and regulations that may affect your business when drafting the handbook. As such, it is important to have employment counsel review the handbook before you publish and distribute it.