If you own or run a company that has even a few employees and you don't yet have an Employee Manual, make it a priority. The basic legal protections provided by such a handbook -- and the extremely low cost to create and distribute it -- makes the decision a pretty easy one.
But even though the benefits of providing an Employee Handbook are plentiful, not every business owner understands what an Employee Manual is -- and what it is not.
At its most basic, an Employee Manual or Employee Handbook is a way for a business to outline the expectations the employer has for the interactions of its employees with other employees, with customers, with vendors. The manual's stated policies and rules should cover the most common situations and scenarios that affect the everyday workplace: hours of operation, pay periods, vacation, dress codes, record keeping requirements, acceptable and unacceptable behavior, computer use, and more.
A complete and comprehensive Employee Manual should cover more than 20+ topics, all in clear detail.
Creating an Employee Handbook prevents unwarranted claims and litigation while giving clear employment guidelines to those that you or your company employ. That alone should be the focus, the purpose.
The document should be written with the primary intent of legally protecting the business from undesired actions of its employees. That intent can only be realized by providing clear written direction as to behavior that is acceptable and behavior that is not.
A well-crafted Employee Manual, used in conjunction with basic employment contracts and other standardized legal forms, can protect the business owner from inappropriate employee claims and demands. Further, employee handbooks, employment contracts and standardized legal forms can be used by the employer to set forth a general outline of each employee’s duties, obligations and work expectations.
An Employee Handbook should not be a 'processes and procedures' manual. Day-to-day operational functions should be outlined in a separate handout or booklet or document. Topics like 'how to make the donuts', 'checklist for cleanup prior to closing', etc. are not the type of topics to put into a legal-focused document.
To the opposite extreme, an Employee Manual should not be a rundown of state and federal laws that might be of interest to an employee. The intent of a handbook is to not educate employees about the law or worker's "rights", but rather to clearly state the expectations of the business as it relates to those employees.
For example, if the company is based in California, there should NEVER be a restatement of California employment law or state hiring regulations in the company's handbook -- the manual should ONLY speak about company policy, what behavior is required and what behavior is not acceptable.
When a business is ready to create its Employee Manual, one of three options are typically chosen to accomplish the task:
- the company can hire a local attorney (who will likely turn to a pre-made legal document template to get the baseline content) and then pay that attorney a few thousand dollars for that attorney's customized document;
- the company can purchase inexpensive legal document software (under $35) to create their own Employee Manual to fit their business, then print it and distribute it;
- the company can use a document preparation service for a reasonable fee (under $100) to help the company executives create a customized Employee Manual. When the document is completed, the company will receive a ready-to-print PDF that can be sent to any local print shop, copy shop or big-box office supply retailer for printing and binding.
Once completed, an Employee Manual should be provided to each and every employee of the company to provide the desired legal protections. If the completed handbook is only provided to a segment of employees, the company could be left open to litigation from those who were not specifically given the Handbook.
In fact, it is wise to get a signed statement of receipt from the employee when the Employee Manual is provided to him or her; Standard Legal provides such a document for signature as part of its Employee Manual document package. That way, an employee cannot claim later that a policy or rule was unknown to him or her -- the signed written statement should clearly state that the employee confirms receipt of the handbook and should read and understand all of the outlined policies and procedures.
Having an Employee Manual and other basic HR legal documents for the workers in your company is an easy and affordable way to create legal protections for your business. Just make sure the handbook template you choose as the framework for that document comes from a respected and trusted legal document company!
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DISCLAIMER REGARDING LEGAL ADVICE: None of information contained on this web site is intended to constitute legal or other professional advice, and you should not rely solely on the information contained on the site for making legal decisions. When necessary, you should consult with an attorney for specific advice tailored to your situation.