What makes the employee handbook so vital to a company or organization?
An employee handbook acts as a clear communication piece between employers and employees. It relays important information such as the history of the company, the organization’s mission and vision, compensation, benefits, dress code, human resources issues, time off, workers’ compensation, performance reviews, discipline and rewards, drug and alcohol policies, anti-discrimination policies, social media usage, safety guidelines and various other behavioral and procedural expectations. It also communicates important federal, state and local laws. It takes all of these items and precisely defines them in a well organized, easy to reference document. From a legal standpoint, an employee manual is indispensable in that it can dramatically reduce liability by clearly communicating employee expectations and prohibited behavior. In many states, courts may consider an employee handbook to be a binding contract. A well-written and clear handbook can protect an employer by setting forth a structure in which neither the employee or employer is surprised by the outcome when issues arise.
What should be included in an Employee Handbook?
As mentioned above, there are several topics that are important to address in a comprehensive employee handbook. Depending on the size of the company, the following may be included in an employee handbook:
Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and Conflict of Interest Statements
An NDA can help to protect your trade secrets and company information.
Your company must comply with the equal employment opportunity laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Compensation (to include the following)
Wages and hours, employment taxes, workers' compensation.
Your employee handbook should include work hours and schedules, as well as how your company manages time off and attendance.
Standards of Conduct
Should include company ethics, dress code, and general rules of conduct within the company.
General Employment Information
This section will cover topics such as recruitment, internal job postings, and grounds for termination.
Safety and Security
Outline how your company creates a safe and secure workplace, including compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's laws. This section should also include your company's policies regarding inclement weather.
Computers and Technology
Outline policies for appropriate computer and software use, securing electronic information, and how you handle any personal information collected from your customers.
Make sure to detail any benefit programs and eligibility requirements.This section will also outline your plans for health benefits, 401(k), etc.
It is especially important that you document leave policies that you are required to provide by law. Family medical leave, jury duty, military leave, and time off for court cases and voting should all be documented and comply with state and local laws. In addition, you should explain your policies for vacation, holiday, bereavement and sick leave.
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