Why Do I Need an Employee Handbook?

Although no law requires it, employee handbooks should be a staple to every company, whether you have 1 employee or 1,000,000 employees.

An employee handbook is the most concise tool available to an employer to not only set forth expectations between the employer and the employee, but make a great first impression.  This is an early opportunity to introduce your new employee to your company culture and personality as well as share your company’s history, vision, and central values.

In addition to introducing your new employee to the company, your handbook should provide clear policies and procedures so all employees understand the company rules and policies for issues including dress code, employee benefits, expected behavior, and even disciplinary procedures. Additionally, in today’s internet dominated world, an employee handbook should address social media usage and expectations.  Clearly outlining these expectations at the outset will either enable you to avoid issues down the road or, at the very least, provide the tools the address issues in an appropriate manner.

A handbook aids employees in understanding their responsibilities and what they can expect from you as their employer.  A handbook can also help you reduce or eliminate detrimental business interruptions, outline the company’s policies in responding to complaints, reduce confusion about benefits offered, and minimize employee frustration that often arises from unclear or inconsistently applied guidelines.  Simply put, written policies and procedures not only streamline employee management, they can help reduce your company’s employment liability by setting forth clear expectations and resolution procedures.

Employee handbooks should have enough detail to articulate each party’s responsibilities, without overly burdening the reader.  A company’s size may dictate the length and some content of the handbook, but usually it should contain information about pay schedules, benefits, dress code, human resource issues, leave, worker’s compensation, performance reviews, retirement, drug, alcohol and sexual harassment policies, as well as safety and discipline issues.  A company must also ensure that its handbook follows federal, state and local laws.

While no law mandates a handbook, there are certain legal obligations all employers have.  This includes certain laws that must be communicated to your employees, even if you only have one employee.  An employee handbook is an effective opportunity to insure broad distribution and demonstrate compliance.

Another benefit to implementing an employee handbook is that it insures clear and consistent communication of expectations to all employees.  This prevents an employer from inadvertently forgetting to discuss a particular policy with employees and eliminates the opportunity for misunderstandings or ambiguities.  Clear and consistent communication will improve your position as a leader in the company and reduce the opportunities for a future unhappy employee to claim you have discriminated against them.

Most employee handbooks provide some guidance on how team members should handle problems they might face at work. What is the policy on sexual harassment (from fellow team members or customers)? Who should they report concerns about drug or alcohol abuse to – and will their report be anonymous? Most employers cover these types of situations through an Open Door Policy, encouraging their employees to report issues anonymously to them and without fear of retaliation.  By outlining these policies at the outset of employment, a company is initiating one of its best lines of defense in the event an employee later becomes unhappy and initiates a complaint.

With a well-written, comprehensive handbook, employees always know what is expected of them at work. They know how their employer will address and apply the policies and procedures of the business and what they, as employees, can expect from the employer.  They know how their employer will address problems and complaints. They have a reasonable expectation that employees with similar issues will receive similar treatment. They share a knowledge base with the rest of the employees, too, and know what is important for the business.  A well-developed employee handbook is a win/win for both the employer and the employee!

Once you have developed your internal policies and procedures, it is equally important to review them on a regular basis to confirm they still apply and reflect current best practices as well as State and Federal law.  The attorneys at Waldron & Schneider can help you navigate the world of employees by helping you create, review, and update your employee handbook and related policies.   Please call our office to schedule an appointment.

The legal information in this blog entry is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.  Further, nothing contained in this article is intended to create an attorney-client relationship with any reader.  This article and website are made available by Waldron & Schneider for educational purposes only and to give basic information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and Waldron & Schneider. The article and website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.