The Employee Handbook

Last month we discussed the HR Audit and how it can help you improve your efficiencies and identify your HR needs. Often times once the audit is complete companies realize they need a solid and practical handbook. They may have one that needs to be revised or they may have nothing in place and need to start from scratch. In either circumstance a strong handbook is a critical piece to having a healthy company these days. It gives employees boundaries and helps them understand what is expected of them. It provides guidance to managers and allows them to deliver fair and consistent treatment to their staff. Having a handbook can also protect you from unnecessary lawsuits and unemployment expenses. If you feel like you are spending too much time on routine HR and people issues then developing and implementing a practical and concise handbook will be extremely useful to you.

Developing a handbook can be very confusing. There are several legal policies that companies must abide by as well as policies specific to individual companies. If you have an HR person on your staff they can help you develop this handbook. If not, there are several outside resources that you can call on to develop this. There are HR Consulting companies that specialize in writing handbooks for a small fee. This would be the safest and time efficient bet. They can ensure that your new handbook contains everything it needs to from a legal standpoint as well as help you develop company policies that address issues specific to your needs. If you cannot afford a consultant, there is also a plethora of information on the Internet about what policies should be in employee handbooks. If you decide to write your own handbook make sure you have it reviewed by and HR person as well as an attorney. If you already have a handbook and it just needs to be revised consider having a consultant take care of this or revise it on your own. Ask your managers where it needs to be improved. Once the changes are implemented make sure you go over those changes with employees.

The following policies are examples of things every handbook should have:

  • At-Will Employment
  • Equal Opportunity
  • Employment Definitions
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Pay and Timekeeping
  • Rules of Conduct
  • Harassment
  • Attendance
  • Confidentiality
  • Company Property
  • Workplace Safety
  • Benefits
  • Breaks and Holidays
  • Paid Time Off
  • Family and Medical Leaves
  • Other Leaves

Once your handbook is complete you are ready to roll it out to your employees. It would be most effective to have an all employee meeting to go over the new handbook. A new handbook can be a great training tool. Hold your employees accountable by going through the handbook with them and answer any questions they have. This ensures that each employee has read the handbook. At the end of the meeting have each employee sign and date the signature page in the handbook and keep it in their file.

Having a handbook will simplify your job. It will ensure that everyone in the organization understands the guidelines that they are expected to abide by. It will protect you as an employer and will give you and your managers a resource to consult when they have policy issues. It will ensure fair and consistent treatment to all employees. If you don't have a handbook, ask yourself how much additional work not having one is creating for you. If you don't have the budget to hire a consultant to custom write your handbook, then create your own. Employees and managers will be grateful that you took the time to give them clear expectations and guidelines.

Published Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bryon Peterson is the President of Human Resources Group International. HRGI is a group of human resources consultants with over 25 years of experience in the field. HRGI provides comprehensive human resources products and services to businesses throughout the United States, and Canada. Its mission is to provide an integrated and highly effective working environment for companies and their employees.

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