Your organization’s employee handbook is a critical document for laying the foundation for a healthy work environment, setting expectations for employees, and protecting your organization from unnecessary risk. When developing your employee handbook, it is crucial to ensure all necessary components are included, while avoiding overcommitting to unnecessary obligations. For optimum risk mitigation, your handbook should be customized to your location(s), industry, and culture.

What should be included in your employee handbook

A well-written employee handbook should be easy to understand, compliant with all applicable federal, state, and local employment laws, and include all necessary policies. If there are missing or non-compliant policies in your handbook, you may be putting your organization at risk. A basic outline of a well-written handbook should include the following:

  • Introduction: In this section, include a welcome letter from leadership and an overview of what is included in the handbook.
  • Employment: Outline your organization’s equal employment opportunity and workplace harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention policies, your expectations for conflict resolution and peer communication, reasonable accommodations policy, pathways for initiating a complaint, and workplace investigation procedures.
  • Workplace: It’s essential to include a description of relevant employee classifications, meal and rest periods, attendance and punctuality expectations, and drug and alcohol policies.
  • Compensation: Provide your employees with information on pay frequency, how overtime is calculated, how performance reviews are handled including any potential for merit pay increases, and outline the organization’s commitment to pay equity.
  • Property: This section should provide clarity on the use of company technology and equipment and explain conditions for any personal equipment employees are expected to or desire to use.
  • Additional Policies: Include a section of all policies around confidentially and non-disclosure, employee files, outside employment expectations, and the process for providing employment references.
  • Safety: Define your organization’s process for maintaining a safe work environment, including reporting injuries or illness, security procedures, and guidelines regarding workplace violence.

It’s also important to consider policies that address industry-specific regulations and ensure that your content is aligned with your unique company culture.

What shouldn’t be included in your employee handbook

While a lot goes into your employee handbook, there is also information that should not be included, but can be developed as stand-alone documents. Your employee handbook is a legal document, which means employers need to be cautious about what promises are made. A few examples of what not to include are:

  • Commitments that are not legally required
  • Internal standard operating procedures, such as desk manuals Detailed OSHA or other safety plans
  • Descriptions of various departments and committees

Beware of “one-size-fits-all” employee handbook options

It is recommended to have a well-written and carefully composed handbook tailored to your company size, industry, work locations, and unique culture.

Free online resources may be tempting to save time and money, but they can be dangerous to your organization. When using a “cookie-cutter” handbook, you run the risk of missing important policies related to your region or industry or including content that does not apply to your organization.

Employers should ensure their employee handbook prioritize language crafted by professionals familiar with current federal, state, and local employment laws and current recommended HR best practices.

A custom employee handbook is your best option

Every organization is unique, with specific requirements to be addressed in an employee handbook. A good handbook should provide value to both your organization and your employees; it serves as:

  • An introduction for new employees to the policies, procedures, expectations, and the culture of your company
  • A helpful tool for employees and supervisors to understand and consistently adhere to your specific organizational practices
  • A useful guide to reinforce the uniform application of company policies
  • Legal evidence that your company’s policies are consistent with and encourage adherence to employment laws

Don’t forget: your employee handbook is not a one-time project. Handbooks need to be continually updated to reflect changes in your workplace and to keep up with ever-changing regulatory requirements. Trüpp offers three convenient options to help establish the perfect employee handbook for your organization and to keep it maintained over time.

HR manager stressing about changing employment laws