Employee Handbook Do’s and Don’ts

Congratulations! Your business is scaling and you are now enrolling others to help your business grow. With growth comes more responsibility and liability. One important resource to use when hiring employees is an employee handbook. It is an essential tool to help you set policy, stay compliant and remind your employees of your company’s purpose.

Here are our top six Do’s and Don’ts of Employee Handbooks:

1. DO explain your company’s values, mission and culture.

Being upfront about your company’s values, mission and culture in writing helps establish and introduce new employees to the company’s culture and cultivates a sense of pride in your business. This will set the standard for your company and can often be referred back to.

2. DO clearly list out employee and manager expectations.

As a business owner/manager you want to be extremely clear with your new employees what is expected of them. This ranges from standards of conduct, dress codes, communication, safety, and more. This will serve as a guide for employee behavior and to allow new employees to understand from the outset what expectations they should have of their manager. Expectations are not a one-size-fits-all portion of the handbook, they should be reasonable and adhered to. If guidelines are not enforced, they should be removed from the handbook. If expectations are not met, the employee handbook should be used as a guide for disciplinary actions.

3. DO have your employees acknowledge receipt of the employee handbook.

Every new employee should in writing acknowledge that they have received the employee handbook. A record of the date of receipt should be stored so that in case of a dispute, there is a record of receipt. In a dispute, the handbook will be an extremely important document to provide to an attorney or investigator and a signed acknowledgement will show that the employee had an opportunity to review the policies and ask questions. 

4. DO NOT include policies that you do not intend to enforce.

Owners/managers must enforce policies consistently with all employees. If a policy is in place it must be enforced. A company will find itself in a precarious situation if it has an employee whose conduct is undesirable or dangerous and violated company policy but that policy has not been enforced consistently. It will be more difficult to implement disciplinary actions for the employee. Therefore, it is best to only include policies that will be enforced and if a company finds certain policy to be outdated, it should be removed.

5. DO NOT promise strict confidentiality for all complaints.

Complaints should be kept as confidential as necessary when conducting investigations, however, strict confidentiality cannot always be adhered to. A false promise can cause distrust amongst employees. It is better to be clear that a situation may arise that would require confidentiality to be broken but that will only occur when absolutely necessary.

6. DO NOT forget about the handbook and never reference or update it.

Employee handbooks should be referenced often by management and updated on a regular basis. An annual review of the handbook will alert management when updates need to be made. A handbook that has not been updated in 20 years likely references outdated law, benefits, procedure, etc. The outdated handbook will be useless in disciplinary situations and investigations, therefore, it should be updated consistently. Last, managers should be trained on the handbook so that the policies are implemented consistently across all managers.

These do’s and don’ts are not an exhaustive list and an employee handbook should not be carelessly drafted. An experienced attorney will assist in drafting an employee handbook that will clearly outline the company’s values and purpose while notifying employees and managers of the expectations.

Schedule a consultation with Nowlin Scott Law Firm today to learn how we can support your business needs.

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