9 Must-Have Policies for Your Employee Handbook

The employee handbook is not just a reference document; it is a living reflection of the personality, values and culture of your company. Therefore, devote adequate time to craft an impeccable employee handbook, that is descriptive as well as attractive.

 

Employee handbooks may seem unnecessary for employers, especially, when they have a small-sized team. But that shouldn’t be the case. Though it is not mandated by law to create an employee handbook, recording your key policies can provide clarity to your employees and protect your company. So, let us check what an employee handbook is and the important policies that you must include as part of your employee handbook contents.

What is an Employee Handbook?

A company employee handbook is a vital document drafted by the employer for the employees, which outlines the company policies, culture and history. This manual is created for existing as well as future employees. Almost 85% of small and medium businesses, with employee strength ranging from 10 to 200 employees, have a proper employee handbook. Experts suggest that employers should introduce their handbook right from the point you hire the first employee. This employee handbook helps you set the right expectations and can also act as your legal protection. The best employee handbook usually covers the following:

  1. Joining and onboarding

For an employer, the main purpose of creating an employee HR handbook is that it can train and inform new hires. So, it is better to begin with the basics. Lay down all the information that you want every new hire to know before they walk into their first day at work.

The onboarding section of the employee handbook examples should include:

  • The At-Will employment clause
  • Conflict of Interest clause
  • Equal Employment Opportunity clause
  • Confidentiality clause
  • General details, including team structure, contact information and office address

Note: The At-Will employment clause is an important part of the employment agreement and should be mandatorily mentioned in the employee handbook.

A sample At-Will clause reads something like this:
“You must note that (company name) is an at-will employer. It means that both parties can end the work relationship for any reason at any point, with or without notice.”

  1. Code of conduct

Even the best of organisations out there, have their limitations and boundaries. The code of conduct is that section of your company handbook, which neatly and precisely states your commandments, i.e., what is allowed and what is not for the employees. It informs them how they should conduct themselves while at the workplace and what is considered acceptable and what is deemed unacceptable. Essentially, this section lays down the entire blueprint of the dos and the don’ts for the employees.

For instance, the employer can emphasis on:

  • Dress code policy
  • Anti-harassment policy
  • Anti-discrimination policy
  • Disciplinary action notification
  • Substance-free office policy
  • Workplace safety
  • Attendance policy
  • Code of ethics

Explain every aspect in detail and make sure your employees understand every feature of these policies. Set the right expectations and precisely establish the appropriate consequences that the employee could face for not complying to the expectations.

  1. Workplace environment

After you have mentioned the expectations and consequences, move on to something more exciting for the employee. Inform them about the work environment and how their regular day at work would be like. In essence, this particular section of the staff handbook should explain how, where and when an employee is expected to do their daily tasks. Make it a point to include the key topics, such as:

  • Work hours
  • Remote work policy or work-from-home policy
  • Lunch timings and break timings
  • Company equipment use policy
  • Person with disability policy
  • Tips on workplace safety

This section will inform them about the office timings, working hours and other important aspects that make up the environment of the workplace.

  1. Communication policy

A precise communication policy was not that important earlier, but now, with the rapid intrusion of technology into personal life, it has become more significant than ever.

Communication policies should provide the guidelines on how your employees communicate with vendors, customers and other associated partners. Though it may seem like common sense, it is still helpful to lay it down in the employee manual.

Set the right communication expectations for:

  • Email communication
  • Phone communication
  • Social media communication

If you provide cell phones and laptops to your employees, mention precise usage guidelines in this section. Provide details about the ethics of using electronic devices provided by the company and the consequence in the event of damage to company equipment.

Your employees should understand that when they use company devices or equipment, they are acting as the representative of the company. Therefore, every act on or with the devices will be considered as an act of the company. For instance, sending an inappropriate text or social media messages from the company phone is highly unacceptable and warrants proper disciplinary action.

  1. Non-discrimination policy

The non-discrimination policy is one of the most important aspects, which must be accurately and exhaustively covered in the employee handbook. It is critical to let your employees know that the company does not tolerate acts of harassment or discrimination in any method, shape and form.

Discrimination is an intolerable offence and is punishable. Similar policies should be implemented in the workplace to make the workplace more inclusive and cohesive. So, there is proper legislation in place that orbits discrimination based on:

  • Age
  • Colour
  • Ethnicity or race
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy

The law provides equal employment opportunities to every individual irrespective of their race, sex or religion. This should be followed at the workplace and all employees should be sensitized about the importance of diversity and inclusion.

  1. Compensation and performance reviews

Most employees are interested in the compensation that they would be getting and prefer to know the allied benefits. So, they will straightway move to this section of the employee handbook to know more about their compensation package, including their payroll schedule, salary, bonuses and tax deductions. So, you must include everything about employee compensation in detail in this compensation section.

The compensation policy should include:

  • Payroll schedules
  • Details of job classification
  • Tax deductions from salary
  • Salary and bonus
  • Travel and other expense policy

Performance reviews are directly linked to compensation. If the employee receives a favourable performance review then they will get rewarded by means of a promotion and/or hike in salary. Therefore, you must include performance reviews as a part of the compensation policy.

A compensation and performance review policy must also include:

  • Performance appraisal
  • Performance review
  • Promotion and transfer
  • Salary hike
  1. Benefits

Yes, benefits are another attractive part, which employees love to read apart from compensation. Therefore, clearly and precisely explain the different benefits offered to employees and how they can avail those benefits. Explain how employee benefits are an integral part of the company value system and how an employee will truly benefit from utilising them.

Begin with a reference section highlighting the categories of employee profiles that are eligible for different benefits. Further, explain the policy behind claiming the benefits. Start with some essential policies and gradually move up to creamy benefits:

  • Health, life, disability, employee compensation and insurance information
  • Retirement plans
  • Paid time off
  • Additional leave policies, like sick, paternal and maternal leaves
  1. Separation policy

There comes a time when the employee has to part ways for better opportunities. In this section, you should cover the essential aspects that employees need to follow a specific process to ensure a smooth separation.

Plus, this section should also clearly state the company termination policy, wherein, the employee could be terminated from the company without notice if found guilty of misconduct, are involved in criminal activities or for other such reasons that can be deemed inappropriate.

This section will explain the offboarding process in detail, such as:

  • Exit interviews and how do they work
  • Full and final settlement
  • Terms to receive the final paycheck
  • Severance pay
  1. Company story

Finally, share your story with your employees; who you are and what your purpose is.

From the original vision you had to how the company became the kind of entity it is today. The story of your organization forms the solid foundation that inspires your employees to come to the office daily and do their best each day. Bring your new hires into your mainstream workforce by sharing your company history.

Ask yourself these things while writing the company’s story:

  • Who is the company?
  • What does it do?
  • Why does this matter?
  • Why should others care as well?

Finding answers to these questions would help you share an amazing and engaging company story with your workforce in your employee handbook.

The employee handbook is not just a reference document; it is a living reflection of the personality, values and culture of your company. Therefore, devote adequate time to craft an impeccable employee handbook, that is descriptive as well as attractive.

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