Most of us understand the value of having an employee handbook. Between the covers of a well-written handbook will be all the information that both employees and management need to make sure there is a clear line of communication. All parties concerned will have access to company policies and procedures, so that important employee rights and issues such as vacation accrual, bereavement pay, benefits and holidays observed are never in doubt. This handbook may also provide some basic information about the workplace and facility.
If you have been tasked with writing an employee handbook for your company, there are several key points you should consider. Before you get started, make sure you have all the information and company policies and procedures straight. Then, it's time to start writing.
- First, there is the matter of content. You want to make sure that what you include will remain the standard for your company. Obviously, you will want to include the company mission statement, a condensed history, and cover such day-to-day issues as dress code, hours of operation, holidays and provisions for other types of time off from the job, and an overview of insurance and other benefits offered. These days, it is also a good idea to include provisions regarding what is considered proper use of company electronic equipment, including computers and Internet access.
- Along with this basic content, you would be well served to include a section that includes the company's non-discrimination policies. If your company does not have a non-discrimination policy, then draft one immediately. Also, make sure you note in the text that the handbook does not supersede any contracts that are in force and in fact is not to be construed as being a contract itself. You want the handbook to be a document that will be fair to both the company and to the employee.
- When preparing your first draft, don't toss in things just because you think they may be a good idea. Everything in the handbook should be applicable to every employee, with no exceptions. As an example, if the handbook says that performance reviews will be done every three months, then that means the reviews will be done at all levels of company operations. Imagine what an angry ex-employee can do if he or she did not receive those quarterly reviews when the handbook clearly states they are to take place.
- Next, have your first draft checked for clarity. There is no point in having a handbook if the verbiage talks down to your employees or is so full of phrases no one understands that it is basically useless. You want the content to be understood with the greatest of ease. You may want to ask a select committee to read the text and ask them to make note of any sections they think should be made more clear. At the same time, have someone not connected with your company proof the draft. You may get some constructive feedback from both sources.
- Run the draft by your legal team. One of the most common problems with employee handbooks is there may be a statement on one page that seems to contradict a statement on another page. Keep in mind that they may become a document that is used in court in the event that a former employee files suit against the company. You want to make sure that your handbook does not bite its own tail anywhere in the text, and that the text complies with all federal and state laws regarding the operation of a business. Remembering to do this one simple task can mean saving your company hundreds of thousands of dollars later on.
- The officers of the company will be the last to see your draft. With a little luck, they will concur with the findings of the legal team and not want to add in additional material. Be sure you keep notes all through the process, so you can advise the officers of any reasons why you chose to omit something from the text, or why the legal team advised against its inclusion.
For inspiration, there are a number of basic employee handbooks on the Internet. In addition, some companies will provide a template that you can customize to fit your needs. Before starting, make sure you talk to your superiors about employee rights and company policies. Remember that the end result needs to be something that everyone can live with for many years to come.