6 Essential Elements Every Employee Handbook Must Contain
A good employee handbook can pay dividends for years to come because it helps employers and employees know the rules of their relationship and what to do when that relationship runs into trouble. A bad employee handbook – or worse, no employee handbook – can spell disaster from the get go. All employers should aim for, and all employees should look for, a good employee handbook, as it will diffuse numerous conflicts before they even begin. Here are six elements that should always be in an employee handbook.
The employee handbook is the first and best place for an employer to set forth a comprehensive statement about what they expect from employees and for employees to know and understand their employer’s obligations to them and their employer’s policies. Expectations, of course, flow both ways and the employee handbook is an excellent, mostly neutral place to enunciate them and set the tone of the working relationship.
2) Compensation and Benefits
Where many employment arrangements are at-will and have no individual employment contracts, the employee handbook steps in to fill the gap of knowledge regarding the scope of compensation and benefits available to employees. It is an excellent place to find information regarding how to access benefits, the terms under which benefits are given or withheld, and the company’s policies regarding compensation, bonuses, and other forms of rewards.
3) Standards of Conduct
In certain professions, there need to be standards of conduct included in the employee handbook covering topics ranging from dress to personal grooming to employee conduct. On the other side of this coin, an employee handbook can also openly declare the lack of standards of conduct or dress codes.
4) Computers and Social Media Policies
Computers are a fact of life in almost all workplaces and thus, it is always advisable to have some sort of policy regarding computer usage at the office. In some areas, social media policies are also advisable. Possible guidelines can include restrictions on the use of computers to certain sites only, prohibitions on using computers for personal matters, and the protocols employees should follow to keep information secure and private.
5) Non-Discrimination Policy
A well-crafted non-discrimination policy protects employers and employees as it sets forth the rights of employees, the obligations of employers, and the applicable laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course, no handbook can possibly address every factual scenario that arises, but it is an excellent framework from which to start.
6) The handbook may be amended as needed.
Handbooks are living documents that need to be updated from time to time to reflect changes in laws, policies, and technology. A good handbook should always include some mention of this fact and keep itself open to be reviewed, discussed, and amended when appropriate.
The first step in crafting an employee handbook or reviewing one as an employee is to consult with an attorney who understands employment law, and the myriad of issues that should be addressed in a handbook. Jamaal (“Jay”) Stafford, Esq. is such an attorney with extensive knowledge of employment law and a unique perspective for guiding both employers and employees. Consider contacting him today with your questions or to get started.