An employee handbook serves an essential role within a company. This little book which also goes by the name staff manual, company policy guidelines, employee manual or staff handbook, serves to provide employees with information regarding the policies and procedural rules of the company.
The information provided is especially helpful to new employees who need to get acquainted with the standards for work attire, the company’s culture, what the company expects of them, employee rights and sanctions as well as the company’s obligations to its employees. The handbook gives new employees a general overview of what to expect, even though it does not include every single detail.
A well-written employee handbook has three essential elements and must always keep up to date with changing laws.
The Three Elements Cover:
- Company culture – their core values, and mission or purpose
- The company’s policies, employee rights and sanctions for breaches, procedures governing addressing grievances and how those are to be dealt with
- Information relating to employee entitlements for time off, company benefits and other company-specific policy matters are also dealt with in the employee handbook.
To get a more specific idea of the areas which need to be included, they will be dealt with under several headings.
This section may contain a welcome to new staff members and also a bit about the company’s history. Here also the mission or purpose and goals of the company are highlighted to give new employees a feel of the company’s culture right off the bat. Make it clear that the purpose of the handbook is not to serve as a contract and that either the employee or the company reserve the right to end employment at any time with or without the requisite notice.
The Obligations of the Company
This section will highlight the company’s stand for equal opportunity employment and against illegal discrimination or harassment.
In addressing the discrimination specifically, outline that the company will be intolerant of any form of discrimination due to nationality, gender, race, creed, religion, color, disabilities or any of the other forms of legally protected discrimination.
The obligations of the company also encompass all matters having to do with the terms of employment, privileges to be enjoyed under employ, conditions for hiring employees and also recruitment, as well as disciplinary action, termination of employment, promotion and compensation. Any applicable local or state laws need to be adhered to in making application of them to the terms and conditions of employment to the company so that in the event of litigation, the company is well protected. Under this umbrella of laws also comes adherence to immigration laws
Policies and Procedures Unique to the Company
These include the way property belonging to the company is treated and utilized, matters of confidentiality, and the fact that sanctions apply in the event of breaches. The sanctions will be dealt with under a separate heading. This section will also include clear guidelines and directives on what is allowed and prohibited regarding the use of all forms of company property.
Other matters generally addressed here also relate to the dress code, benefits, treatment of sensitive company information and matters of that nature.
Classification of Employment
This section will make a distinction between the various classes of employees such as whether they are full time, part time, seasonal workers, temporary or other classes. The requisite benefits for each group will be included as well. The proper classification of employees is important to include, because it serves to protect the company from liability in terms of adherence to the Fair Labor Standards Act, particularly relating to exemption or non-exemption from overtime allowances based on classification.
Policies Regarding Attendance
This section will outline the company’s hours of operation as well as the employee’s responsibility to honor it. Here the expectations regarding attending on time and being present or not are also addressed, with the mode of action, on the part of the employee and also the company, which would obtain if these are breached.
Policies Regarding Time Off
Scheduled or unscheduled time away from the job will be addressed in this section of the handbook, to ensure that the rules are in keeping with the relevant laws. The company may indicate whether or not it provides additional benefits for employees who are away on vacation leave. The set period of time allotted for vacation must be included also and in many cases the quantity of time assigned each worker is based on years of service. A company may choose to establish a unique policy on unclaimed leave of absence which is in keeping with the laws of the land. Time off entitlements will also include the legally allowed sick days and the minimum provided by the company. Other forms of time off such as departmental leave,
Time off entitlements will also include the legally allowed sick days and the minimum provided by the company. Other forms of time off such as departmental leave, government summoned jury duty or even family medical leave are discussed. It is advisable for companies to seek legal counsel for their protection and proper handling of this issue.
This information will include the standard of conduct expected from company employees and what will happen in the event of failure to meet the established standards. The progression of events beginning from how minor offences and warnings will be handled then progress into more grave breaches, consistent violations and ultimate termination.
It is sufficient to include a general course of action for dealing with disciplinary issues rather than specify a prescribed step by step process of how each possible issue may be handled. Some issues need to be dealt with on their own merit and this provides protection for the company in terms of not violating their own disciplinary policies.
Health and Safety Standards
This crucial section will detail all of the company’s stipulations and contingencies for on the job safety, emergency plans of action and security. This is in keeping with the requirements of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and serves to protect both the employees and company once they are in compliance with the rules and regulations.
Accident report procedures should be outlined and the safety monitor identified.
Employee Benefits Provided
Statutory and company benefits will be elucidated in this section and will encompass areas such as retirement or pension benefits, health and disability insurance schemes and any other specific benefits provided through the company.
This makes it known to employees how the company goes about making assessments of the undertaking of employee work responsibilities in keeping with their job descriptions. It will also be specified how issues of below par performance will affect job future, as well as how above par performance may be rewarded.
Acknowledgment of Receiving Policy Handbook
Some companies choose to include a section for acknowledgement of receipt of the handbook which employees may sign to reflect their recognition of the existence of the rules and comprehension of them. This does not constitute a contract of any sort. It simply confirms their awareness of the document which may protect the company in the event of future claims of ignorance.
A most pertinent piece of advice in drafting up an employee handbook is to seek the counsel of a lawyer to assist with the review of the document to ensure that the policies are in keeping with existing laws and also are appropriately worded.