Employee handbooks are not required, but they should be a staple to any practice and, if written properly and understood by both the practice and employees, can help prevent liability. Keep in mind that when you draft a handbook you want it to reflect your company’s actual practices — “say what you do and do what you say”. Employee handbooks set the expectations between the employer and the employee. They should provide clear guidelines on the company’s rules and practices. There are no laws requiring employers to have an employee handbook, but there are several federal, state, and local laws that employers must make employees aware of in writing. Whether you call it a handbook, employee guidelines, or procedure manual, here are five reasons why this document is strongly recommended:
1. Conveys your company brand, culture, philosophy, mission, and goals. Introduces new employees to your culture, mission, and values and, if well-written sets the tone for a positive employer-employee relationship.
2. Establishes a foundation for effective and consistent policy management and compliance. Helps ensure that key company policies are clearly and consistently communicated and applied fairly across the board.
3. Serves as an essential communication tool between you and your employees by conveying to employees what is expected of them and, in turn, what they can expect of your organization.
4. Can protect your company by preventing misunderstandings, reinforcing employer expectations, and helping to keep your workplace free of potential lawsuits arising from discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination claims.
5. Defines required federal, state-specific, and local employment laws and employee rights.
In addition to having a handbook, we highly recommend that you have employees sign a handbook acknowledgment. This is a critical part of the process as it demonstrates that employees received the handbook and are responsible for understanding the information contained in it. The acknowledgment process can be seamless, as distribution can often be done electronically, for example, by uploading the handbook to an onboarding portal. These systems often contain an electronic policy acknowledgment feature, which is an effective, “paperless” way to not only distribute your handbook but have your employees acknowledge that they received and understand it. While not required, a well-crafted handbook that is known about, respected, and acknowledged by your employees is a valuable tool for any organization.