Have you ever started a new job and not been given an employee handbook? There is nothing worse than not having something to refer to when trying to find out information, such as leave procedures, benefits, and the general guidelines of the company. As a business owner, you should have this information ready and available for your employees to refer to. A common way to disseminate this information is through the use of an employee handbook. The employee handbook should be structured to explain the employer-employee relationship, but it should also be flexible enough the employees cannot back you into a corner when administering disciplinary action. Many possible components should be incorporated into your company’s employee handbook. Here are the 12 components I consider the most important when constructing a handbook.

13 Important Components of an Employee Handbook:

1. Mission Statement: As a business owner, it is important that you know what goal you want your business to achieve and how you are going to do it. Wikipedia defines a mission statement as, “a short statement of an organization’s purpose, identifying the scope of its operations: what kind of product or service it provides, its primary customers or market, and its geographical region of operation.

Here is an example of a mission statement for the Kiva Organization (a non-profit that lends money to entrepreneurs globally): “To connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.”

2. The Purpose of the Handbook: Your employee handbook should clearly state its purpose. The statement of purpose usually states the following:

a. The purpose of this handbook is to inform employees of the policies and procedures of the company;

b. The XYZ company reserves the right to update or revise the handbook, as needed; and

c. This version of the handbook supersedes and replaces any and all personnel policies and manuals previously made available or applicable to employees.

3. Disclaimer – This section should state that the handbook is not a contract of employment. This section is important because an employee could sue an employer for breach of contract without this clause.

4. Nature of Employment: If your business location is in an at-will state you want to include an at-will statement. Just as the employee has the right to resign at anytime, the company has the right to terminate the employee at any time, with or without prior notice.

5. Employment Policies: The employment policies are the meat and potatoes of your Employee Handbook. The employment policies section will probably be the longest in your handbook. It is all of the regulations that you would like your employees to adhere to while working at your company. These rules can relate to dress code, ethics, standards of conduct, work and pay schedules, promotions, overtime, and anything else you’d like your employees to know. It is important that HR reviews this section carefully to ensure the information stated is in line with Federal and State Laws and Regulations.

6. Leave Policies: There should be a section on leave policies. This section should explain the company’s leave policies such as vacation time, holidays the company observes, sick leave, family medical leave, and more obscure leave situations such as military spousal leave, or sabbatical leave.

Also, include the procedure for requesting time off or calling in sick to work. For example, a doctor’s note must be presented to HR before the employee can return to work if the employee is out for longer than 3 days. Another example would be the procedure for actually calling out. The employee must call their supervisor and office manager if they are going to be out on sick leave at least 30 minutes before the start of their shift or before the start of business.

7. Health and Safety: Policies need to be in place to ensure the safety of your employees. Declare that your company has a zero tolerance policy for discrimination and sexual harassment.

· Guidelines for a safety program

· Workplace Violence

· Drug-free Workplace Policy

· Emergency evacuation plans for violence or disaster

· Employee Referral Program

8. Employee Benefits: The employee benefits section should give a basic outline of benefits offered, eligibility requirements, and any important contact information. Make sure to keep this section updated with relevant information. This should be done at least annually. With the Affordable Care Act and possible changes to it, it is more important than ever to give the correct information to employees. The Payroll Source Group can handle this for your company to make sure you stay in compliance with the current laws and regulations.

9. Discipline and Termination Policies: Although this is an uncomfortable topic, it is important to establish your company’s discipline procedures in case an employee leaves or unfortunately is terminated. It is important to have Human Resources or Legal Counsel to review this section so that the information isn’t misstated.

10. Performance Management: Managing your employee’s performance can significantly improve your company’s overall business performance. This section should explain the performance assessment policies for your company. For example, it could list the documents required to be completed by the manager and employee during a performance review. The section may also list the important competencies that your company values such as teamwork, oral and written communication, customer service, analytical thinking, etc. While performance reviews should be tailored to the individual employee this section can give your employees some insight on what the company values.

11. Technology Policy: In this day in age, it is important for your business to have a technology policy, often referred to as an Internet Use Policy. Are your employees allowed to be on their personal cell phone or social media sites throughout the day, or are they banned during working hours.

12. Acknowledgement Form: Employee handbooks should contain an acknowledgment form. Even if the employee doesn’t ever read the handbook, they attest to having read, understood, and agree to the policies within. The forms should be collected from every employee and kept on file for the appropriate amount of time (even if the employee is terminated.)

13. Manual Revisions: When changes are made to your employee handbook it is important to note the changes. This enables employees to be able to quickly locate and comply with any new policies are procedures. It may also be beneficial to the company to have the employees acknowledge that they have received, read, and understand the changes to the handbook.

To construct your employee handbook, organize it into major categories with as many subcategories as necessary. The handbook should be written with care and feedback from company stakeholders in multiple areas at the president’s level and down. Take care to write the handbook with positive language that inspires camaraderie and does not offend the employee from the get go. One final note is to make sure you keep your employee handbook short and sweet. Employees will feel overwhelmed and not read the handbook if it is too long or overly complicated.

The Payroll Source Group can help you focus on your core business by constructing your employee handbook for you.

 By Betsy Drellack www.decorousdiva.com

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