Creating employee handbooks

No matter what the size of your organization, a great way to communicate expectations is through an employee handbook. A carefully written handbook can also help defend your business in the event of lawsuits or other challenges.

Handbook guidelines

An effective handbook clearly spells out expectations—what you expect of employees, and what they can expect from you. It’s also flexible and legally defensible.

  • Use handbook templates as guidelines only; target content to your specific needs.
  • Write in clear, unambiguous language that all readers can understand.
  • Allow for flexibility on key employment decisions (like rewarding top performers).
  • Maintain content that will change frequently, like work-specific procedures, separately.
  • Consult with legal counsel to ensure content is legally sound and up-to-date.
  • Always have employees acknowledge they’ve read and understood the handbook.

Sample topics

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” employee handbook; include what makes the most sense for your organization. Here are some common topics covered in employee handbooks:

  • Company information: Brief coverage of history, mission, vision, culture
  • Legal compliance: Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Employment At-Will policy statements
  • Attendance: Business hours; flextime hours; family leave; policy on working remotely
  • Compensation: Salary and hourly classification; paydays; overtime; health and other benefits; workers’ compensation
  • Employee performance: Performance review schedule, policy, and procedures
  • Employee behavior: Sexual harassment, respectful workplace policies; email and social media guidelines; dress code
  • Use of assets: Policy on the use of laptops, tablets, cell phones, etc. away from the office
  • Safety and security: Emergency preparedness; relevant OSHA guidelines
  • Acknowledgment: Standalone or tear-out document to be signed by the employee for personnel files

Source: DOL:

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