Employee handbooks have long been a topic of discussion within companies, with some subscribing to the “must have” opinion, and others to the “let’s be cautious” side.
The “must haves” contend that an employee handbook is a boon to any company as it communicates, in written format, not only company policies to employees, but also the company’s mission, objectives and philosophy. Those urging caution emphasize that any document conveying such important information must stay current with legislation and employment practices and also include disclaimers that protect the company.
In conducting research for this article, I reviewed articles espousing both philosophies. The large majority of writers agreed that an employee handbook, cautiously written and regularly updated, was a good thing. They also felt that an employee handbook, filled with key information about the company, its procedures and philosophies, and providing guides for employees on benefits, compensation and other items of major interest, showed employees that
the company respected and valued them, and deemed them capable of managing many of their work-related affairs.
While handbooks can contain a myriad of topics, many HR and legal professionals would suggest the following as the minimum:
- Introduction to the company, with welcome statement from senior management, disclaimer statement (noting that handbook is a guide, not all-inclusive, and not an employment agreement), handbook acknowledgment form, at-will-employment statement and overview of the company, its mission, objectives and culture.
- Employment and legal procedures and policies, with open door policy, adherence to legal statutes (FMLA, EEOC, COBRA, HIPAA e.g.), employee status, job posting procedures, recruitment and hiring, position descriptions, training period, performance reviews, personnel records, disciplinary procedures, complaints and grievances, and termination guidelines.
- Work hours and compensation, including normal work hours, flextime, compensation guides and pay periods, overtime, and working from home guides.
- Employee benefits, e.g. health, dental, life and accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance, short/long term disability, pension program, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, FICA and social security, tuition assistance, employee assistance program, and FSAs.
- Time out of office, e.g. holidays, annual -personal – sick –bereavement – military – or court – leave, leave without pay, absences, inclement weather policy.
- Employee expenses (and reimbursement for), such as for relocation, travel and entertainment.
- Employee conduct and general office procedures, including personal conduct, fraud, no-smoking policy, drug-free environment policy, dress code, housekeeping, correspondence, mail, office resources, office security, supplies, telephone, and email usage guidelines…
Policies that are overriding and may not fit into these categories, e.g. a statement that the company is competitive within the industry with wages and benefits, could fit in the introduction, or with other similar policies in a separate section.
A good employee handbook is one that communicates clearly, makes employees feel a part of the company, protects both the employees and the company, is updated regularly and reviewed by legal counsel, and is made available to all employees upon hiring and when the book is updated. The handbook is not a set of rules, but guidelines for employees and management, and it is not set in concrete. Employees need to know that all items in the handbook are fluid, and may change at any time. Additionally, employees should be required to sign a statement that they have read the handbook, and that they understand its contents.
Currency, consistency and plain language should be the hallmarks of any employee handbook. Keep it simple, and employees will read it, and understand. Just what you want.
Guest Article By: Bettie Biehn is President and Founder of Career Change Central, LLC, an excellent source for customized, well-written and attractive resumes and cover letters that focus on the client’s skills, experience, knowledge and background and also pay attention to what the prospective employer needs and wants. Bettie also provides career coaching to her clients.
Bettie’s background includes many years as a senior HR professional, nonprofit director, trainer, hiring manage, in-house recruiter and writer. She is a published author, for three years contributing a monthly column to a nationally distributed, award-winning trade journal.
Bettie has recently taken her business to a full-time venture and invites you to visit her website, Facebook page, and Google+ page. She is also active on Twitter. Bettie’s URL for her website is www.careerchangecentralllc.com, and you can reach her at 202.550.0999 and email@example.com.
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