Overlooked and Underrated: How to Get the Most Out of Your Employee Handbook

February 8, 2021
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The employee handbook. It’s probably been a while since it’s crossed your mind, much less your desk. However, the employee handbook serves as a valuable protective resource for you as a business owner, as well as your employees. It lays down the laws of the land for your employees so they know what to expect, and more-informed employees = a more efficient (and profitable) workplace. If you're not keeping your handbook up to date with your company's latest regulations and vision, your employees won't know where to turn when they have a question about policies, and chaos just might ensue.

Our goal is that by the time you're done reading this blog, you'll be able to confidently make changes to your employee handbook that will help protect you, your employees, and your business.

Clarity Is Key

To best protect yourself and your business from potential pitfalls, it helps to make your language as clear as possible. To ensure what’s written in your handbook is exactly what you mean, we’d highly recommend seeking legal counsel. I know, I know, lawyers… ew. While it’s certainly not pleasant, it’s very necessary. The cool part about lawyers is that they'll have a ton of experience drafting employee handbooks! They'll know exactly what they're doing, so you won't get caught in a trap if an employee tries to undermine your policies because your language wasn't clear.

If the interaction factor is a dealbreaker for you, you can also use Rocket Lawyer to quickly and easily create your handbook. Rocket Lawyer gives you access to a template where you can copy and paste all of your relevant info and tailor sections specifically for your industry!

If you are creating the handbook on your own, just make sure to be direct. Chances are, your employees aren't going to read 100+ pages of dry copy. Make it easy to skim by having clearly labeled policies divided into sections. That way, your employees can find the section they need without falling asleep.

Finally, you'll want to make sure you always have a digital copy on hand. This makes it easy for you or your employees to quickly lookup policies while in the field. This might not sound important, but it can actually help you defend against employee claims. Employees can't say they didn't know about a policy if they had 24/7 online access to the handbook!

Well Prepared

Make sure you include everything your employee could possibly need to know, even items that they wouldn’t think to read over! This could be regarding benefits, employee expectations, standards for management, and more! There's no such thing as TMI when you're building your 'book. After all, this is your chance to introduce your employees to your values, culture and mission.

Employees should know all about taking time off, how to fill out their timesheet, and what the penalty is for an unscheduled absence. It might feel like you're going into way too much detail, but you're not. Beyond mere policies, you should also educate them on what they can expect from you. What's your leadership style, and how will you implement all these rules?

Naturally, one of the sections employees will be most eager to read is the benefits section. This section should cover any vacation, health insurance, 401(k) or other paid leave options. Let them know why working for you is so great, and they'll never want to leave!

Play Nice, and Safe

It’s important to outline workplace standards for behavior. Your employees represent you out in the field, so you can't have them acting rude or harassing clients that give them trouble. That's why your handbook should outline the proper way to behave in all situations — even in the online world!

Being polite is one thing, but being safe is another. Not following safety protocols could result in property damage or injury, which is something you definitely don't want to deal with. Putting this all in your handbook helps your employees know what to look for when it comes to potential hazards, so nothing gets out of hand.

Being safe goes beyond protecting employees and clients — it's also about protecting yourself! Remember when we talked about legal counsel in section 1? This is where it pays off and can help you defend yourself against employee claims. As long as you have a robust and thorough handbook, you'll have a nice shield against lawsuits from former or current employees. It's a sign that you showed "reasonable care" toward your employees and that they had a chance to seek help if they had an issue.

More Than Just a Paperweight

As you can see, your employee handbook has a ton of value! Don't just let it collect dust. Make updates annually so your language is always clear and up-to-date with your current policies. If you need help, your friendly neighborhood lawyer can assist! In your yearly audit, make sure you're covering everything an employee would need to know about working for your company. Finally, make sure you outline everything you can think of about safety and behavior standards. It's the best way to keep both you and your employees safe!

Need a little help organizing your employee handbook? Here's a sample outline to get you on the right track!

  • Employment Basics
  • Contract types
  • Equal opportunity employment
  • Recruitment and selection process
  • Attendance
  • Workplace Policies
  • Confidentiality/data protection
  • Harassment/violence
  • Workplace safety and health
  • Code of Conduct
  • Dress code
  • Cybersecurity and digital devices
  • Conflict of interest
  • Employee relationships and fraternization
  • Employment of relatives
  • Workplace visitors
  • Solicitation and distribution
  • Compensation and Development
  • Compensation status and payroll
  • Performance management
  • Employee training and development
  • Benefits and Perks
  • Employee health
  • Workers' compensation
  • Work from home
  • Employee expenses
  • Company car
  • Parking
  • Company-issued equipment
  • Working Hours, PTO and Vacation
  • Working hours and paid time off
  • Holidays
  • Sick leave
  • Bereavement leave
  • Jury duty and voting
  • Parental leave
  • Employee Resignation and Termination
  • Progressive discipline
  • Resignation
  • Termination
  • References

Easy to use,
easy to customize,
and easy on your wallet.