Employee Handbook

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6 Policies to Include in Every Employee Handbook

July 17, 2018 - 12:00 pm

Regardless of the industry, location or size of the business, defining specific human resource expectations is beneficial for both the company and employees. Small businesses and startups should create an employee handbook as soon as possible, ideally before employees start their jobs. It is easier to establish policies before you need them rather than trying to fix things after an employee situation goes south. 

  1. The employee handbook is an introduction to the company, so spell it out. This is who we are, this is our target audience, and this is how you can be a part of it. Even employees whose roles do not involve top tier decision making do not want to function in a vacuum. Understanding the mission, culture and goals of the organization helps everyone.
  2. A clear policy about unscheduled absences or tardiness is important. Ambiguous or undefined attendance guidelines can lead to problems. The best, most productive employee in the world does the company no good if they aren’t there, and the impact of having one less person on the job is even greater for a small business.
  3. Industry and job-specific guidelines should be documented, particularly regarding safety issues, work environments and any related dress codes. For example, positions on food service or preparation may require non-skid shoes, hair nets and the regulated use of disposable gloves. It’s important for everyone to understand that OSHA and other federal standards apply to everything from office chairs to structured breaks and meal periods.
  4. Compensation policies are clearly important for successful recruitment, performance and retention of employees. Printed or online manuals are not necessarily the place to list a specific employee’s rate of pay — that may be more appropriate for new-hire paperwork — but company-wide policies should be defined. Compensation rules may include a description of exempt vs. nonexempt positions, 401K participation, health benefits, disability, life insurance, overtime pay guideline, paid sick leave and vacation or flex time accrual and use.
  5. Workplace harassment has been getting increased attention and scrutiny, so businesses must be even more diligent about addressing such issues. The employee handbook should include clear guidelines for acceptable on-the-job behavior and communication, including reporting procedures, legal definitions and opportunities for training.
  6. Confidentiality, corporate image, proprietary information and appropriate antitrust requirements should all be defined in the employee handbook in detail, including info shared via voicemail, email, text and off-site contact. All businesses have competitors, and the wrong time to address the issue is after important data has walked out the door. Codes of conduct regarding employee internet usage during business hours and social media both on and off the clock are also a must. Some businesses use IT to block access to certain types of websites while others rely on the personal judgment of their staff, however, guidelines are important in either case. Employees should also be made aware of possible repercussions if they discuss their job or the company on their personal social media accounts.



This article was written by Valerie Heimerichs for Small Business Pulse