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Human Resource (HR)

Employee Handbook Guide - What should your Employee Handbook Include?

Category: General HR

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An employee handbook is the most important communication tool between you and your employees. A well-written handbook sets forth your expectations for your employees, and describes what they can expect from your company. An employee handbook should describe your legal obligations as an employer, and your employees' rights.

What Should an Employee Handbook Include?

The most effective employee handbooks cover the topics below. Links to guides discussing your legal obligations as an employer are also provided below for your reference.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and Conflict of Interest Statements

Although NDAs are not legally required, having employees sign NDAs and conflict of interest statements helps to protect your trade secrets and company proprietary information.

Anti-Discrimination Policies

As an employer you must comply with the equal employment opportunity laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. Your employee handbook should include a section about these laws, and how your employees are expected to comply.

The Employment Discrimination and Harassment guide provides information on your legal requirements as an employer.

Compensation

You should clearly explain to your employees that your company will make necessary deductions for federal and state taxes, as well as voluntary deductions for the company’s benefits programs. In addition, you should outline your company’s legal obligations regarding overtime pay, pay schedules, performance reviews and salary increases, time keeping, breaks and bonus compensation.

The following resources provide information on your legal requirements as an employer:

Work Schedules

Within the handbook, 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.

Standards of Conduct

Make sure you document your expectations of how you want employees to conduct themselves in your workplace, from dress code to ethics. In addition, it is important to remind your employees of their legal obligations, especially if your business is engaged in a regulated activity (for example, your company’s legal obligations to protect customer data or to avoid insider-trading activity).

General Employment Information

Your employee handbook should include an a overview of your business and general employment policies covering employment eligibility, job classifications, employee referrals, employee records, job postings, probationary periods, termination and resignation procedures, transfers and relocation, and union information, if applicable.

The following resources provide information on your legal requirements as an employer:

Safety and Security

This section should describe your company’s policy for creating a safe and secure workplace, including compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's 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.

Finally, add your commitment to creating a secure work environment, and your employee’s responsibility for abiding by all physical and information security policies, such as locking file cabinets or computers when they aren’t in use.

The Workplace Safety & Health guide provides information on your legal requirements as an employer.

Computers and Technology

Computers and communication technology are essential tools for conducting business. However employee misuse can have serious consequences for your company. Therefore, your employee handbook should outline policies for appropriate computer and software use, and steps employees should take to secure electronic information, especially any personal identifiable information you collect from your customers.

Visit the Information Security page related to privacy for more information on your legal requirements as a business owner.

Media Relations

It’s a good business practice to have a single point of contact for all media inquiries, such as yourself or a public relations professional. You don't want your employees to bring unwanted attention to your company by speaking about your business in ways that could easily be misrepresented in the media. Your employee handbook should include a section that discusses how your employees should handle calls from reporters or other media inquiries.

Employee Benefits

In your handbook, detail benefit programs and eligibility requirements, including all benefits that may be required by law such as disability insurance, Worker’s Compensation Insurance and COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act).

The employee benefits section should also outline your plans for health insurance options, retirement, employee assistance, tuition reimbursement, business travel, and any other fringe benefits your business provides to attract and retain employees.

The Providing Employee Benefits guide provides information on your legal requirements as an employer.

Leave Policies

Your company’s leave policies should be carefully documented, especially those 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 to comply with state and local laws. In addition, you should explain your policies for vacation, holiday, bereavement and sick leave.

Create an Employee Handbook the Easy Way

To save you time and help you avoid the process of creating a handbook from scratch, SBA has developed a free template. This basic Employee Handbook Template covers the topics listed above and can be customized using your company’s specific policies.

Courtesy of the SBA

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