For many employees, the employee handbook is only one small piece of working for a company – a piece quickly forgotten. They read it, forget it and get on with learning and doing their job. While this may not be ideal from and employer perspective, it is important to realize that forgetting the employee handbook is a luxury only available to employees. As an employer, the employee handbook is an important tool for communicating with your workers and protecting your company from unnecessary lawsuits.
The importance of an in-depth employee handbook
The employee handbook explains a number of things to your employees – things that they need to understand to integrate effectively with your company. It not only tells them the history of your business and your mission and goals, it explains hard and fast rules for getting along in the company. It lays down the law on what is and is not acceptable.
In addition to the rules of your company, the handbook also lays out the specific laws that are applicable to employment with your company. There are federal and state laws pertaining to employment – and perhaps to safety in your particular industry – that employees need to be aware of.
All of this information is put down in clear writing that is then explained to the employee by your company. Employees can look to the handbook for clarification, as well as to management and human resources if applicable. The important thing is, all parties have the same reference – the handbook.
The handbook protects your company
You company could do everything right, operating well within the law and treating your employees fairly. This does not protect you from legal action by unscrupulous parties – even people you have hired and taken care of. Companies are sued all the time whether they do anything wrong or not. But, as long as you are obeying the law and have solid documentation to back you up – such as with your employee handbook, you should be able to effectively defend yourself.
Consider at-will employment. If you are in an at-will state, you should certainly have that information front and center in your handbook. Employees should know that legal realities of your relationship to prevent any confusion on down the line. Disciplinary measures are sometimes necessary and should be mentioned in the handbook as well, along with the relationship between disciplinary measures and at-will employment.
Harassment policies are also an important component of the handbook. Sexual harassment charges can hit a company hard, damaging both its reputation and its bank account. Your policies towards any type of harassment or discrimination should be clearly stated in the handbook. This is something you will want to be able to reference should anyone ever attempt to lay blame on your company policies for harassment or discrimination situations.
Invest in your employee handbook
The employee handbook is important enough to invest time and money in. Consider hiring an attorney familiar with employee handbooks to ensure you include everything necessary to protect your company – both now and in the future.