Employee Handbook: a Necessary Evil

Lawsuits are constantly challenging what should and shouldn’t be included in an employee handbook. So what exactly should be included?



Employee handbooks are not typically the favorite part of employment. Employees are usually required to read one when hired (or at least sign saying they acknowledge they’ve read it) because it’s a protection for employers. A good handbook becomes a resource to employees regarding the company’s mission, vision, benefits, policies and procedures, acceptable behavior, and so on. But it seems like lawsuits are constantly challenging what should and shouldn’t be included in an employee handbook. So what exactly should be included – and why does it matter?

Here are the essential elements to a handbook and why you want them to be included:

  • Introduction
    • This will explain the purpose for the handbook and set employee expectations.
  • Your Company’s Mission Statement
    • Your mission statement will help your employees be aligned with the overall purpose of the Company.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Statement
    • This statement is to enforce your policy of not being discriminatory – including before, during, and after the hiring process.
  • At-Will Employment Statement
    • *A carefully written at-will employment statement helps employees understand that the employee handbook is not a contract. It also specifies that there does not have to be a specific reason for their employment to end.
  • Critical Policies:
  1. Non-discrimination and anti-harassment policy
  2. Americans with Disability Policy (ADA)
  3. *Confidentiality
  4. Outside Employment / Conflict of Interest
    • These establish the legal components to employment.
  • Employee Information
  1. Initial Employment Period (waiting periods)
  2. Employee Categories
  3. Compensation Details (payday, overtime, record keeping)
  4. Time-Off Policies
  5. Benefits
  6. Other Policies (workplace violence, attendance, drug testing, complaints process, etc)
    • Having all of these outlined in the handbook will help maintain consistency for both managers and employees, as well as provide a valuable resource to employees.
  • Employee Acknowledgement Form
    • Ensure employees sign a written statement acknowledging they have received a copy of the handbook. Save this in their personnel files as a protection from potential legal issues.

An employee handbook can feel overbearing and lengthy, but is critical for your company. Remember to keep the language simple (i.e. no legal jargon) and to be aware of your state’s requirements, as you may be required to include specific information about employment laws in your handbook. For more information or questions about employee handbooks, please contact us.

*These policies (Employment At-Will Notice and Confidentiality) have come under heavy scrutiny recently because of litigated terms. Be sure your handbook has carefully-written information to avoid a potential lawsuit. Need help with your handbook? Our experts can help! Please contact us today.

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