If you ever started to believe there was no purpose for an employee handbook, think again. They are an essential tool for HR leaders and it’s not just about setting policy and staying compliant. The best employee handbooks offer a reminder of a company’s vision and purpose and help employees throughout their tenure. An employee handbook or manual is also a great opportunity to introduce new employees to your company’s culture.
Here’s everything you need to know about creating a strong employee handbook for your organization.
What is an Employee Handbook?
An employee handbook or employee manual gives employees a detailed overview of policies that are specific to your organization along with other key procedures, guidelines and employee benefits. In a nutshell, it sets clear expectations for your employees while also stating your legal obligations and defining employee rights. The employee handbook can help protect your business against employee lawsuits and claims, such as wrongful termination, harassment and discrimination. The handbook is also a crucial introduction to your business for new hires, providing insights for new hires to understand your mission and values.
Creating an employee handbook from scratch can seem like a daunting task, but having one is essential to creating transparency and consistency across your organization. It can also keep you out of hot water. Still on the fence?
Here are eight reasons your organization should have one:
Introduces employees to your culture, mission and valuesPerhaps the most important aspect of your employee handbook is the introduction of new employees to your company culture and how they will fit in. This helps to foster a sense of pride and belonging, which studies show will help employees become more productive in a shorter period of time. The introduction section also includes a vision and mission statement. It also sets the standard for the employment relationship in general, and provides a guidepost for the remaining policies communicated in the handbook.The purpose is to answer the questions to let employees know what sets the organization apart, how the organization was established and what the organization is passionate about.
- Communicates to employees what is expected of them
A well-written handbook provides employees with a clear understanding of their responsibilities. The handbook also serves as a compass for the organization’s policies and procedures. For example, it advises employees what the procedures are for requesting time off or a vacation. It advises employees whom they should contact when they have an unscheduled absence (and what the timing should be). It tells employees whom to go to if they have questions about any of the specific policies in the handbook. The handbook also communicates an employee’s general responsibilities regarding safety, timekeeping and reporting. By providing clear, accessible information, handbooks ensure companies continue moving in the right direction.
- Educates employees about what they can expect from management and leadership
An employee handbook provides objectives and leadership styles, as well as management best practices, to foster healthy management-employee relationships. It also outlines logistics, such as timekeeping requirements, hours of work and pay periods. Further, a complete employee handbook advises employees of their various entitlements to federal and state leaves, such as the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or Jury Service Leave. These clearly communicated policies help to eliminate confusion and inconsistencies that result when handbooks are silent on these topics.
- Helps ensure key company policies are clearly and consistently communicated
No policy is effective if it is practiced inconsistently. A handbook will accurately communicate your organization’s policies regarding employment, conduct and behavior, compensation and other policies and procedures you follow. Most importantly, managers can refer to the handbook when answering questions or making decisions regarding your policies and ensure their answers and actions are consistent with your policies and best practices.
- Showcases the benefits you offer
Does your organization offer vacations, 401(k), health insurance, paid parental leave or other benefits to employees? Make sure they know about these policies and the eligibility requirements by communicating them in the handbook. A robust benefits package can help you retain your best and brightest employees, so be sure they know about your full suite of offerings by communicating these in the handbook.
- Ensures compliance with federal and state laws
No matter what state you do business in, or how many employees you have, you will be subject to state and federal employment laws. Your handbook not only communicates these various entitlements and obligations to employees but is useful in demonstrating that your organization strives to be compliant with these regulations. For example, if your employee is called away to active-duty military service, you will want to be sure they understand their rights and obligations when communicating their reason for taking leave. Your Military Leave Policy should clearly define these parameters to the employee. Similar policies should communicate rights and obligations regarding state disability leaves, federal FMLA leave, and other government mandates.
- Helps defend against employee claims
Unfortunately, employers should consider it a matter of when, and not if, they will face a lawsuit or similar challenge from a current or former employee. When this happens, one of the most useful documents you can provide your attorney or third-party investigator will be a copy of your handbook. A thorough and compliant employee handbook will help to show that the organization exercised “reasonable care” towards its employees. The employee’s signed acknowledgement page will show that the employee had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the organization’s policies, a chance to ask related questions, knew whom they could turn to for help within the organization, and agreed to follow the terms and conditions of employment set forth by the organization.
- Provides information about where employees can turn for help
Ultimately, you want employees to feel comfortable turning to a trusted member of management for help when they want to report workplace violations, obtain workplace-related assistance and get answers to any other questions they may have. The alternative is for them to turn to an outside third party, like the EEOC or DOL, which could trigger a costly and time-consuming investigation. When a handbook not only outlines one or two management individuals for an employee to turn to in these situations, but also designates another individual to turn to in the event the employee disagrees with the first decision, they are more likely to keep their complaints in-house, and this is a good thing for employers.
What Should Be Included in an Employee Handbook?
When was the last time you reviewed your policies and updated your employee handbook? Or do you need help creating an employee manual but aren’t sure where to start? The information above is enough to get you going; but if you are looking for a quick summary, here are a few items you should be sure to include in your staff handbook:
- Company history, vision, mission statement and core values
- Code of conduct/policies
- Working hours, dress code and facility information
- Privacy and security information
- Benefits for full-time and part-time employees
- PTO policies (sick-time, vacation time, bereavement)
- Resignation and termination processes
- Anti-harassment policies and processes
- Acknowledgment of receipt
Remember, an employee handbook is a great opportunity to inform new employees, protect your organization and communicate your organization’s core values.
How Paycor Can Help
When it comes to trusted HR expertise, turn to Paycor for help. Paycor’s HR Support Center is a comprehensive HR resource that provides organizations access to employee handbook templates, sample job descriptions, useful checklists, law alerts and more. Plus, dedicated support from an HR expert is always available with HR Support Center On-Demand. Want an HR expert to review your handbook policies? Have questions regarding an employee’s behavior? The support you need is only one phone call away.