The Legal Ins & Outs of Employee Handbooks: 10 Things You Need

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By Vincent DiForte
| Employment

How should you handle a situation where one manager fires an employee for taking a 2-hour lunch and another only gives a warning?  How can you communicate rules and procedures around working from home?  What should you say to an employee whose attire is unprofessional?

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An employee handbook can help with all of these situations and more. Employers struggle to communicate consistent policies and broach sensitive topics, so talk to a lawyer about drafting an employee handbook to help.

If you have employees, you should have an employee handbook — end of story.

While there is no formal legal requirement to implement one, a handbook allows you to communicate vital policies and procedures, which can prevent legal issues, and can protect your company in the case that there is an issue. 

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10 Things You Should Include in Your Employee Handbook

An employee handbook establishes a valuable resource for both employees and employers alike.  Employees will use an employee handbook to answer their various work-related questions, such as benefits and policies; for employers, it reduces misunderstanding, sets expectations and limits contentious conversations associated with enforcement.

Below we outline the essential components of a comprehensive employee handbook:

  1. Company Overview. The employee handbook should define the company’s goals and mission to create a sense of common purpose.
  2. Handbook Purpose. The handbook should clearly define its purpose. Typically this includes three statements: 1) that the handbooks purpose is to inform new employees of the policies and procedures of the company, as well as establish expectations; 2) the company reserves the right to update, revise or suspend the handbook at its sole discretion; and 3) the handbook supersedes and replaces any and all personnel policies and manuals previously made available or applicable to employees.
  3. Disclaimer. Every handbook needs a disclaimer that unequivocally states the non-contractual nature of the handbook and preserves the at-will employment status of employees. This provides an important defense should a terminated employee bring suit claiming a clause in the handbook is a contractual obligation or that they could only be fired under certain circumstances
  4. Employment Policies. You should consult a lawyer to ensure you are in compliance with federal, state and local regulations that govern the workplace. To comply you may need Equal Opportunity Employment, Non-Harassment, Non Discrimination and Employee Eligibility policies drafted and included in your employee handbook.
  5. General Employment Information. The heart of an employee handbook establishes the policies and procedures of a company.  This includes, but is not limited to, standards of conduct, work and pay schedule, promotions, overtime, dress code and anything else important to your business. Again, there are federal and state laws that will dictate some of your policies and procedures so you should consult a lawyer to avoid violations.
  6. Leave Policies. It is inevitable that employees will need to take time off from work; therefore, establishing the company’s leave policies will facilitate a smooth employer/employee relationship. Your leave policies should include the types of leave covered – sick, vacation, jury duty, caregiving, maternity/paternity, military, grief, etc. – who is eligible, duration, paid vs. unpaid, and how leave is approved.  It is also important to reserve the right to terminate an employ for excessive time off.
  7. Health and Safety. Your handbook should include the workplace safety and security measures. You should consult a lawyer for compliance with laws that require reporting and procedures for handling accidents, injuries, and other health and safety related issues.  Here, you should also address the emergency and bad weather policies.
  8. Employee Benefits. A basic outline of the benefits offered, eligibility requirements and any relevant contact information is sufficient because there should be more formal documents describing in full-detail the various benefit’s you offer.
  9. Discipline and Termination Policies. Although the least popular section outlining the company’s procedures for discipline, an employee exit and termination are necessary. Companies can be obligated to abide by their own policies, so it is important to consult a lawyer on how your company will handle these matters—whether to set hard rules or assess on a case-by-case basis. 
  10. Acknowledgment. Your handbook should contain an acknowledgement form to ensure each employee receives, understands and agrees to what is set forth in the handbook. You should collect and maintain a copy of the signed acknowledgment in each employee’s personnel file.

While drafting an employee handbook is an important task for any business and should not be taken likely, it need not be daunting.  Priori Legal makes it easy and affordable to find a lawyer who can advise you through each section of the handbook.  A Priori Lawyer can tailor a comprehensive, clear and compliant handbook to ensure that your company is protected, saving you time and money in the long run.

Sumbit a free request with Priori Legal today!

 

Photo Credit:

rob_gonyea via FreeImages

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