Hiring and on-boarding new employees is an exciting time for everyone involved. They say that you never get a second chance at a first impression.
This is important to keep in mind when bringing your employees on board. Setting new hires up for success, while also getting them excited about their new job, can have great payoffs down the road. One of your most important resources for employees old and new is your employee handbook. This document is a great place to keep general company rules, dress codes, codes of conduct, and more.
Because the employee manual is the home for so much information, it can get boring fast. If you’re feeling lost on how to make an interesting employee handbook that people want to read then check out or guide and template below!
An employee handbook is important for communicating information to your employees.
What is an employee handbook?
If you’ve never had to read through an employee handbook then congratulations; you’ve been someone’s HR nightmare.
Chances are you’ve encountered your fair share of employee manuals in some form. They’re the, often lengthy, books of rules, codes, and general guidelines for working at a company.
A typical employee handbook can contain any amount of information. Even the most bare-bones employee handbook should contain a few specific things. We’ll go more in-depth later on the different elements to include or you can check out our employee handbook template for some examples. Overall, the handbook should be a source of information or a quick reference for general guidelines.
What an employee handbook is not is also important to mention. Sure, these manuals are a wealth of information and guidelines. But it is important to remember that everything HR-related does not need to be included. Including information on taxes, tax codes, or other general business information won’t be necessary. Adding this will just leave your handbook feeling dry.
Your employee handbook is also a general document sent to all employees. This means job positions don’t need to be discussed at length in the handbook. That information should be agreed upon before the hiring process is completed.
You will also want to check with any local, state, or federal laws when creating an employee handbook. Laws may be in place for your area that requires information to be included or excluded, from the handbook. You may even need to include specific phrases for legal purposes. When in doubt always consult your lawyers or other legal aides that you might have access to.
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Why do we need an employee handbook?
Setting employees up for success from day one is a great way to show how prepared you are as a company. It shows employees that you’re invested in them and their successes with you from the beginning. For some things, you may also have legal requirements for some of the content within the handbook. In these cases, you would be legally required to provide some form of an employee manual.
Aside from looking good to new employees or legal requirements, there are other benefits with handbooks. Some commonly asked HR related questions can be inside an employee manual. This provides a reference for employees so HR doesn’t spend their time answering the same questions all day. Questions about various policies can be answered by referring to the employee handbook. You could even include a Frequently Asked Questions section to your handbook to allow for a quick reference.
How do I write an employee handbook?
Before you are ready to put together an employee handbook, you need to know what you’re including inside. If you’re looking for a good starting point then you can check out the employee handbook template we’ve provided within this post. But if you’d rather start from scratch with your own layout or sections, we’ve got a list of things you could include.
Here are a few of the sections you should consider including in your employee handbook:
1. Company Background or History
This is nice to include near the beginning to add some flavor and personality in the handbook. A lot of the content in the employee manual will be dry. So it is nice to show that your company is comprised of real people and it’s nice to acknowledge your journey.
Laying out the basic information on all available benefits will help answer quick questions. What types of policies are available (i.e. Medical, Dental, 401k) and when employees are eligible for the benefits are great to include.
Any employee resources or local discounts can be included here. Listing all these resources in one place allows employees to remember the added perks for working at your company. Gym discounts, assistance programs, and more can all be included in the manual.
If you work around other offices, public streets, or anywhere with difficult parking then this is essential. Every business tends to have its own rules on parking. Even if it seems straightforward to you, chances are including this will not cause any harm. Make sure employees always know where they can and cannot park by including this section.
5. Time Off and Leave
Without getting into specific numbers you can easily let new employees know your time-off policies. You can also add how to request time off. Things like your type of paid or unpaid time off policies, when and to whom time off requests need to be made, and any legal requirements of your time off. This is also a great time to mention your leave policies and how leave is handled in your company.
6. Attendance Policies
Laying out point systems or other in- attendance policies is important to communicate early on. This doubles as a form of insurance for you and your managers as the employee will sign the handbook at the end to show that they fully understand it. This means they cannot pretend they never saw the attendance policy later on.
7. Overtime Policies
Explaining your company’s approach to overtime is important for an employee handbook. For some industries and companies, it can be hard to ask about overtime, especially if it happens as an accident. But laying out what to do or what is allowed with overtime from the beginning can help answer questions later on.
8. Dress Code
One of the main pillars of an employee handbook tends to be some form of dress code. Even if it seems self-explanatory, having a do’s and don’ts list of what to wear is important for employees to see. It prevents the awkward conversation later on about work-appropriate outfits. This is also a great time to mention if there is any employee identification or badges you require your employees to keep on all the time.
9. Breaks and Lunches
Many times your breaks and lunch requirements may be determined by laws or regulations. This means your employees are probably pretty familiar with the general rules around breaks. It is still important to include this section for reference. Including it also helps to lay ground rules about communicating lunch policies if applicable.
10. Safety Information
Including local law enforcement numbers and general safety guidelines is great for a handbook. You can also detail the location or locations of first aid kits for quick reference.
11. Emergency Information
An evacuation map and emergency phone numbers can be included here or in the Safety Information section of the handbook.
Including harassment policies in your handbook makes them easy to reference. This also allows for a more discreet way for employees to obtain information. Many states legally require you to provide a copy of the policy as well so putting it in your employee manual helps you check that off the list.
Just like with the harassment policy, you are likely required to provide a copy of your discrimination policy to your employees. By including the policy in your handbook you can easily ensure you provide a copy and that your new hires acknowledge receiving it by signing the handbook.
14. Telephone and Internet Usage
It’s worth noting if your phone lines are recorded, you may even be required by law to disclose this depending on your state. You’ll want to give guidelines on appropriate internet and phone use as well. Just like with the dress code, this can help prevent awkward conversations later.
Laying out the details of termination with the company is important for future reference as well as for covering your bases later on. Here you can also include information about at-will employment if necessary. Talking about termination on day one isn't fun, but educated employees will feel empowered at work.
16. Other Things to Include
While the above list is a great starting point, you might want to include other things depending on your company. Information on uniforms, company vehicles, time tracking software, and more might be applicable for your company. A good guideline for making your employee handbook is that if it is a company rule or policy that may need to be referred to later, it should be included in the manual.
Creating an employee handbook is important for communicating information to your employees. Creating an easy-to-read, concise handbook that is still a useful resource may be difficult but you will benefit from it in the long run. Make sure your employee manual can easily answer questions about policies. When in doubt you can always reference a great example like the template we’ve included in this post!
Let us know in the comments below, what are your must-haves for an employee handbook?