Employee handbooks don’t need to be boring and full of legalese that no one can understand…and that no one will read. Did you know there is a food company in Ann Arbor, Michigan whose employee handbook is so entertaining and sought after that they added it to their online bookstore? It’s true! While you may not be looking for bookstore fame and sales, have you considered creating your own employee handbook? In today’s blog we’ll talk about the employee handbook, what it needs to contain, and how you can create one for your small business.
Do I need an Employee Handbook?
The answer is yes!
Why? An employee handbook provides a written document that your employees can read and refer to for information and guidance. It should contain your business policies, help them understand the culture of your business, and provide legal clarification for a smoother operation and for setting expectations. Although an employee handbook is not required by the Federal Department of Labor, they do require you to inform your employees of their rights. Here is a list of reasons to have an employee handbook:
- Outlines the benefits available
- A reference for employees to look back upon after being hired
- Outlines what employees should expect from management and leadership
- Provides employees with your culture, mission, and values
- Outlines to employees what is expected of them
- Helps to ensure key company policies are clearly and consistently communicated
- Ensures compliance with federal and state laws
- Helps defend against employee claims
- Tells employees where they can turn for help
What should our Employee Handbook include?
Now that you understand that it is a great idea to have an employee handbook, you can create it. It doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated. An employee handbook doesn’t even need to be large, but there are a few things it should cover:
- Company policies
- Terms of employment
- Payroll deductions
- Discipline procedures
- Paid Time Off (PTO)
- Business travel
- Nondiscrimination policy
- Conflict of interest
- COVID-19-related infection prevention measures
- Intellectual property
- Code of conduct
- Time and attendance
- Dress code
- Mobile devices
- Social Media
- Drug policy for both legal and illegal substances (i.e. cannabis or medical marijuana)
Looking at the list above, some of the items were not even required when I owned my own business. Cannabis was not legal, and we had not even heard of the word COVID-19. You’ll want to keep in mind that the Employee Handbook is a fluid document. Once you’ve implemented it, remember you will need to revisit and update the document frequently. You’ll want to make sure you stay compliant with state and federal requirements, FMLA, remote working, social media, changes in employment laws, and regulations, etc.
How does company size make a difference with a handbook?
What happens when your company hires more employees because the business is growing? More employees could mean more laws and regulations than your original employee handbook contains or emphasizes. Hiring employees in another state brings on new state laws and regulations which you might not be aware of and require multiple handbooks based on each state.
Having your Employee Handbook “blessed” or given approval by an Employment Attorney is worth the time and money. Depending on the growth of your company, you might choose to have your Employee Handbook revised every 6 months to a year.
Can I create my own Employee Handbook?
The short answer is, of course you can! There are several online resources for creating an employee handbook that are industry related. Once you’ve narrowed down what you need to include in your handbook, you can search for added tips and trick (even templates) to create your own handbook. Here are a few links to handbook resources: *We do not endorse or recommend any of the following resource sites, they are just for your information:
Texas Employee Handbook Template (Charges a fee)
Quick Employee Handbook (Charges a fee)
Employee Handbook Template (Free example)
For additional resources on creating and maintaining an employee handbook, or for other personnel resource information to help you in your small business, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – serving Collin and Rockwall Counties, Texas.
Blog post by: Karen Raymond