Benefits of an Employee Handbook

What is an Employee Handbook?

An Employee Handbook (sometimes called an employee manual) is a written set of policies, procedures, and practices often provided to new employees at the start of their employment with the company. An Employee Handbook is designed to provide employees with guidance, procedures, expectations (of both the employee and the employer), and other information related to their employment. Employee Handbooks can be used by employees at the start of employment to learn the employer’s core values, mission, and other pertinent onboarding information. Employee Handbooks can also serve as a reference tool for employees to use throughout their employment regarding policies, procedures, and expectations.

Pen and Pad of Paper

Why is an Employee Handbook Important?

Employee Handbooks can achieve a variety of objectives for an employer. It is important to note that there is no law requiring an employer to create and issue an Employee Handbook. However, depending on where the employer is located and/or the number of employees, the employer may be required to provide their employees with notice of certain legal rights and other policies. An Employee Handbook is the perfect place for such notices and policies and their distribution to employees. All employers, regardless of size of employee base, should consider an Employee Handbook.

There are four reasons why creating and maintaining an Employee Handbook is beneficial:

  1. Employee Handbooks set realistic expectations. Employee Handbooks outline the employer’s expectations for workplace conduct and should clearly describe policies and procedures to which employees should adhere. When such policies and procedures are violated, Employee Handbooks should also clearly describe what and how misconduct will be disciplined. In addition to employee expectations, Employee Handbooks should also include what employees can expect from the employer. This provides clarity and sets expectations for the course of the employment relationship, allowing both the employer and the employee to have a written document to which to refer to reduce confusion around those policies.
  2. Employee Handbooks assist the Company with applying policies uniformly and fairly. A frequent claim made against employers is that the employer failed to treat an employee fairly. Employee Handbooks help ensure that all employees are made aware of the employer’s policies and practices so that when conflicts arise, the employer enforces policies uniformly and fairly according to those described in the Employee Handbook. Treating employees uniformly and fairly also reduces an employer’s legal risk. By ensuring that the employees are made aware of policies and ensuring they are subsequently enforced and interpreted uniformly and fairly in regard to all employees, the employer supports its defense against unfair treatment claims.
  3. Employee Handbooks provide guidance for supervisors. Supervisors are often the front-line observers of misconduct and generally the first level of employee disciplinary authority. A well drafted Employee Handbook serves as guidance for supervisors to ensure that policies and procedures are applied uniformly and fairly. Disputes and misconduct are inevitable in the workplace, but supervisors who uniformly and fairly apply workplace practices to all employees contribute to the employer’s retention of employees and morale. Employee Handbooks are also a tool to empower supervisors to manage and resolve conflicts by using the Employee Handbook as a roadmap for workplace issues.
  4. Employee Handbooks help fulfill legal obligations. As mentioned above, some states require employers to distribute certain legal notices, policies, and laws to their employees in writing. For employers obligated to do so, many find that the Employee Handbook is the best place to fulfill those legal obligations. In addition, employers may find it beneficial to include in an Employee Handbook policies such as those related to anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, certain employee benefits, and laws related to the employer’s industry and location.

Once developed, it is important that employers maintain their Employee Handbooks and keep them up to date as laws and regulations change. Employment laws vary by business type, size, and location. Ensuring your company’s Employee Handbook remains current and legally sound is a critical component in protecting the company and defending against potential disputes and lawsuits.

Is it time for your company to update or develop an Employee Handbook? Contact Barrett McNagny’s Labor and Employment section to discuss your company’s legal needs. 

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