Employee handbooks are useful means of letting employees know the guidelines and benefits of working for your company. This manual will also protect your business from lawsuits and other claims from employees due to any conflict.
Benefits of an Employee Handbook
As a company employs more individuals, more challenges can exist in its communication to employees. These challenges can be addressed by an expertly crafted employee handbook that can enable more meaningful communication by ensuring that comprehensive information is consistently available to all employees.
An employee handbook's features can include sections outlining employee benefits and guidelines for letting workers know what is expected of them. It can also better facilitate communication between managers. When effectively written, an employee handbook also demonstrates an organization's desire for good relationships with its employees while providing a valuable source for employees to get answers if questions arise.
Employers and Laws
An essential aspect of operating a business with a team of employees is how you should be aware of the laws of being an employer. You must comply with such laws regarding tax withholding, workers and unemployment compensation, minimum wage, overtime, sexual harassment, and accommodation of employees with disabilities. Through various state or federal law, employees may also be given time off for business such as jury duty, court appearances, voting, and military service.
There are several ways by which federal and state law may affect the employee-employer relationship. Applicability to your company and situation may depend on how your company goes about its business activities and the number of employees on record. For example, your company must have at least 50 employees if anyone is to benefit from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Some laws require legal notices to be placed in clear and visible areas within your workplace. It is not necessary, though, to print this information in the employee handbook. However, you may also want to include it in the handbook so that your employees have a single source of all essential employment information.
Besides providing an employment handbook, it is a good idea to enter into an employment agreement with some (ideally all) of your staff. This action is necessary if you want to legally bind your employees to a confidentiality agreement, non-disclosure contract, non-compete clauses, and intellectual property ownership requirements.
Some companies use a single, blanket employee agreement that they feel works for everyone. Others use separate contracts, including but not limited to employment, confidentiality, non-disclosure, and non-compete agreements.
Inside the Employee Handbook
Employee handbooks can come in all shapes, sizes, and lengths. However, many details are similar, and many companies have made manuals explaining what is expected of employees within various organizations. Let's take a look at essentially how an employee handbook should function:
- The employee handbook is not the same as an employment contract.
- Employment is "at-will." This term means that either the employer or the employee may terminate employment at any time for any reason.
- The company is an equal opportunity employer with a policy against discrimination in the workplace.
- Terms of employment will take effect should there be inconsistencies with the handbook.
- Changes to the handbook may be made anytime, which can be done with or without notice to employees.
From there, the handbook would generally move onto:
- The company's mission statement and set of values
- Company work schedule and a calendar of holidays
- Procedures for evaluating employee performance
- Policies for paid and unpaid time off
- Acceptable use of company property
- Dress code
- Grievance procedures
- Ban of drugs and alcohol in the workplace
- Remarks about unique ethical and legal concerns, especially those related to government regulation
- Disciplinary policies, including appropriate actions taken for policy breaches and what to do if policies are violated again
- A small list of employee benefits (as extensive benefits are not usually set out in detail in that document)
While any of these subjects can be covered in depth in the employee handbook, they may also be summarized. Your company can always provide additional information about benefits elsewhere. For example, while an employee handbook may state that your employees will undergo an annual performance review, the extensive information is usually best laid out in the employment contract or job offer acceptance document.
As a standard practice, you may let your employees sign the employee handbook to acknowledge that they received the manual and read it. Later on, this will prove useful when employees say that they were never given a guide in the event of disciplinary action.
Cons of Having an Employee Handbook
There are always disadvantages to anything, and an employee handbook is no exception.
One risk is any court may deem that the employee handbook itself is binding. They could punish the company for not following the rules and the same procedures the company wrote.
A court might also decide you were wrong to fire an employee if the handbook says a written warning is enough for a first-time violation. It is best to have an attorney review the handbook if a detailed employee disciplinary action needs to be described.
Keeping Top Talent in the Loop
Creating and updating an employee handbook are challenging tasks, but having one brings better communication between employees and employers. It can be part of a sustainable plan to hire and retain top employees as your business continues to flourish.
At Infinity Consulting Solutions, we are here to improve your craft by offering new ideas, creating growth, and advocating a sustainable future for the business community. Contact us today to hear how our staffing solutions can help you find and keep top talent in your industry.