What Is An Employee Handbook, And Why Is It Important?
As an employer, you have a lot of things to keep on top of. There are so many obligations to keep, and things to make your employees aware. That’s why your employee handbook is one of the most essential tools you have at your disposal. If it’s well put together, this little booklet can save you a lot of time answering the same questions over and over again and provide you with some protection should things start to go wrong. It’s your opportunity to put all your company policies, practices, procedures, and employee benefits in one place. This is the best way for you to effectively communicate what your employees should expect from you, and what you in turn should expect from them.
But if you’ve never done it, you might not know how to write an employee handbook. Or what to include in it. While it might be tempting to go to one of those free sites and download an employee handbook template, the reality is your handbook needs to be tailored to your business and your approach. So where do you start?
In this blog, we’re going to cover what to include in your employee handbook, and how to write one.
General Employment Information
This is the first section and it’s all about covering the basics. Remember that your employee handbook is generic- which means everyone will get one – so here you should include any of the policies that apply to all employees equally. Save specifics for the contracts. Make sure you lay out the basic policies around:
- Employment eligibility
- Job classifications
- Employee referrals
- Job postings
- Termination and resignation procedures
- Union information (if you have one)
- Grievance processes
If your policies are too long, you can write a detailed summary for the handbook with a link to where they can find the full policy.
Standards of Conduct
This is an incredibly important element to include, and it’s probably the one you will refer back to most often. It covers all aspects of how you expect employees to behave. At work, to their superiors, around colleagues, and even while wearing their uniform. Any situation in which your employees are representing your business. This should include:
- Dress codes
- Telephone and computer user rules
- Remote working standards
- Smoking policies (e.g. staff must cover all company logos whilst smoking)
- General behavioural expectations
This one confuses some people because each employee will have their own individual working schedule. But within this employee handbook section, you’re merely highlighting policies around those schedules. For example, details on how overtime works at your company, including how it’s allocated and paid. Any options you offer for flexible or remote working (more important now than ever), and what the policies around it are. You should also lay out your policies regarding attendance, punctuality, and reporting absences – along with any consequences there may be for going against those policies.
Leave and leaving policies for your employees should be carefully documented. There are some types of leave you are required to provide by law, and you are required to give details of these here. On top of that, there are other leave policies you might want to implement, for example, extended maternity or paternity leave. So, make sure you include your policies on:
- Statutory holiday
- Bereavement leave
- Emergency leave
- Sick leave
- Maternity and paternity leave
- Jury duty
- Military leave
Details should include timescales available, what pay is offered (if any), and any requirements that employees might need to meet for them. For example, to claim sick leave you might require a sick note from a doctor.
Alongside temporary leave policies (above), you need to detail the process and policies around when employees wish to leave, or if you need to terminate them. Here you should let employees know how much notice they are required to give you if they want to leave the company, what format that notice should take and who it should be given to. It should also explain what the termination policies are for your company, and how much notice you need to give employees in each scenario. You may have touched on this in the general employment information section, but you can expand on it here.
Here’s a guide to help with ‘Dealing with Disciplinaries’.
One of your legal obligations as an employer is to comply with anti-discrimination regulations. Here, explain what your obligations are, what they mean, and what you’re doing to meet them. You should also be explaining what you expect from your employees, and how they should behave while employed by your company. This is also the place you should explain what the consequences are of breaking these rules, and how employees can report something they see. It’s also a good place to talk about specific anti-discrimination policies, including:
- Sexual harassment
- Affirmative action
- Diversity and inclusion
And any other policies you may wish to include.
If your business provides any company-wide benefits, this is also a great place to include them. For example, if you provide insurance, private medical care, pensions, commission-based bonuses, gym memberships or anything else, include details on what it is and how to access it here.
This can be particularly useful for companies who offer a ‘pick and choose’ style of benefits, which can be confusing to use, and this gives employees a reference point. If you have specific benefits that are only for certain employees, those should not be included here, but in their individual contracts.
How Can We Help?
Does all of that sound a bit overwhelming? Don’t worry – we understand that! At Karen HRM we specialise in helping employers understand their obligations and making it easy to get them right. We provide expert advice and support in creating employee resources, including employee handbooks, that protect your company, your reputation, and your employees.
If you have any questions or want to see some employee handbook examples, just get in touch with the team today.