While Employee handbooks are not required by law, they are a best practice for an organization. Handbooks clearly convey policies and help protect companies from litigation.
Employee handbooks are an essential part of effective human resources (HR) management and positive employee relations. Handbooks can also play a critical role in demonstrating employment law compliance.
While carefully drafted employee handbooks can be an important part of employee relations media, handbooks that are unskillfully or improperly drafted can create organizational and legal headaches. Employers must carefully review every policy and procedure in a handbook to minimize potential contract claims and be prepared to update them periodically.
As a general rule, if an organization’s employment policies, procedures, programs, and methods are important and contribute to the organization’s success, they should be in writing. Once in writing, they must be consistently enforced. To be consistently enforced, they must be communicated.
To be communicated, they should be promulgated in a format easily accessible and readily available. That is an employee handbook — whether in hard copy or in an electronic version.
An Employee Handbook should:
- Contribute to organizational orderliness. The handbook should help reduce workplace stress by conveying useful information. In addition, the employee handbook should cover hours of work, paydays, leaves of absence, benefits, policies and procedures, and other important information.
- Help create an atmosphere of trust and respect. It should give employees a sense of belonging, make them stakeholders in the organization’s success, and inspire them to become advocates for the organization.
- Help employers comply with their legal obligations and ethical requirements. An employee handbook will promote consistency and assist employers in preventing claims of disparate treatment. It must also help protect management’s right to make changes and adapt the organization’s policies and programs to changing business realities.
- Be a tool to help communicate HR and legal obligations. The handbook should clearly communicate policies, procedures, programs, and methods.
- Tell the story of your company. An employee handbook presents an excellent opportunity for an employer to educate employees about the organization, its history, and its origin.
- Employee handbooks should be manageable documents. They need to be in a format that is easy to use by employees. Frequently, they are small enough to be easily portable and easily accessible.
- Maintain at-will Language. Employee handbooks should avoid using terms or expressions that could be construed to imply a greater degree of job security and job protection than the organization’s employment-at-will policy provides.
As you can see, a handbook is an involved document; it includes all of the above and some more key points, such as including compliance policies, and outlining disciplinary actions.
Whether you have five or 5,000 employees, a great employee handbook is part of a great HR foundation. Build your custom handbook in under 10 minutes with VMA member’s complimentary ThinkHR Handbook Builder.