Customized employee handbook may save owner business, sanity

Although many employers may realize the benefits of creating a customized employee handbook, the task itself may seem daunting at first. Having an informative, updated handbook educates workers about job requirements, benefits, company background, behavioral expectations and disciplinary consequences, all of which ultimately protect the employer and business.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) calls employee handbooks the most important communication tool between an employer and his or her employees, noting that a well-written handbook includes legal obligations and employee rights.

The SBA also suggests including the following sections in an employee handbook:

  • Non-disclosure agreements and conflict of interest statements
  • Anti-discrimination policies
  • Compensation breakdowns (including legalities regarding pay, breaks, overtime, etc.)
  • Company background and goals
  • Work expectations (including information about schedules, dress code and time off)
  • Required job conduct
  • Safety guides and regulations
  • Disciplinary consequences, termination standards, resignation
  • Policies for company property
  • Benefit breakdowns

CopperPoint Mutual Employment Law Attorney Bobbie Fox advises employers to “follow your ABC’s when drafting an employee handbook.  A) Have employees Acknowledge he or she read and understood the handbook; B) Be sure your  handbook complies with applicable state and federal law, and C) Customize the handbook for your company, clearly telling employees what you expect from them.”

(CopperPoint provides additional HR compliance advice at PinPointNews.net.)

To prevent a handbook from becoming a legally binding contract, employers may ask employees to sign a copy of the handbook or a disclaimer noting that the handbook is not a contract. This can also be achieved by including a clause in the handbook expressing “supervisors don’t have the authority to enter into employment agreements.”

The SBA offers a free basic employee handbook template for employers who want to create a customized handbook from scratch. However, it is also recommended they seek feedback from a lawyer to prevent possible legal issues.

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