The Employee Handbook is a living, breathing document
We have just hired a new employee, when do their benefits start? An employee just quit, when does their health coverage end? An employee was just called for Jury Duty, is the company suppose to pay her? An employee's wife is sick and he wants time off--can our company allow that? All the answers to these questions should be located in the employee handbook.
As an Employee Benefits Account Executive and Compliance Associate for our business clients, I am asked these and other questions daily. Small business owners and managers are usually very busy with the day to day tasks of running their business and are not comfortable with these seldom asked questions, especially in those businesses with low employee turnover. I am always happy to help answer these questions, but my first thought is always, "what does your employee manual say?"
Friday is "dress down" day!
The Employee Handbook can be much more than the document you dust off and give to the new hire on their first day. It can and should be more than a stack of papers that you (hopefully!) have your new employees sign off on, never to be seen again. This is your document! It is all about you! You are allowed to make it interesting and fun and a go-to for your employees' questions. You want your employees to know where to find your rules on vacation or earned time, or what holidays they have off with pay this year. If every other Friday is a "dress down" day, include it. If you celebrate National Donut Day (the first Friday in June), or National Blame Someone Else Day (the first Friday the 13th of the year--you can't make this stuff up!), put it out there for your employees to see. Who better than you, the business owner, to know what is important to you, your business and your industry.
Topics you need in your Employee Handbook
Of course there are some basic topics you should include for your protection, and the protection and education of your employees--that is the ultimate reason for the Employee Manual. For example, you want to make employees aware that you adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or that you are an Equal Opportunity Employer. You want them to know where to find your company policy on harassment, or violence in the workplace, as well as your rules on drugs in the workplace and your disciplinary procedures, and many other recommended topics.
You want to be sure that the information in your Employee Handbook is exactly what you intend it to be, and that you can live by your own rules--every time, for every employee, without discrimination. Running the final document past legal counsel is always a good idea.
An Employee Handbook may never be an all-inclusive document. No one can anticipate every scenario, but having an up-to-date, working document in place will help you as business owner or manager answer many of your employees’ questions. It could even answer some of your own! I regularly audit employee handbooks and advise clients on benefits and regulatory compliance topics, so please feel free to contact me directly with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.