Most of us would expect to be given an employee handbook on the first day of work at a major corporation. We do not have the same expectations for small businesses. Go to work for a company that has just two or three employees and you may not be given a handbook. Why is that? More importantly, is it okay?
There are no federal or state laws requiring companies to publish employee handbooks. Those that do publish them voluntarily. As such, the question really is one of whether it is prudent to publish and distribute employee handbook regardless of company size. Dallas-based BenefitMall says it is.
BenefitMall explains that an employee handbook is a document containing all the established HR and employment policies a company has in place. It is a written record of those policies, so to speak. Publishing and distributing a handbook makes it much easier to keep employees informed of said policies regardless of whether a company employs 100 or 10 individuals.
Typical Handbook Content
By now you might be wondering what is in a typical handbook. In a nutshell, any established policies relating to employment or human resources. For example, time and attendance policies are almost always addressed. The company outlines exactly what is expected of each employee. For example, the handbook might state that employees must be on time for work every day. It might also say that hourly workers are not allowed to sign in any earlier than 5 minutes before the start of their shifts.
Employee handbooks also address things such as:
- overtime policies
- paid time off
- break times and duration
- calling in sick
- dress codes
- performance reviews.
The list of possibilities is limited only to how much a company wants to cover. The most important thing to understand here is that policies are subject to change. Just like companies are not required by law to publish employee handbooks, they also are not required to live with established policies in perpetuity.
When policies change, employee handbooks should be updated. Employers should also take note that what is written in an employee handbook applies to everyone equally. From management down to the workers on the floor, employment policies are applied across the board unless specific exemptions are written into company policy.
Creating a First Handbook
Perhaps the most difficult part of publishing an employee handbook is actually creating the first one. Doing so can seem like a daunting task. After all, where does one start?
Creating a first handbook is usually the domain of the human resources department. Their starting point is to do a systematic review of all employment and HR policies. Such a review makes it easier to identify weak and strong points. Where no policies exist for known problems, a review makes it clear that policies need to be written.
Following a policy review, HR gets together with senior management to determine if any modifications are necessary to existing policies. Only when HR and management are on the same page are they ready to actually create the handbook itself. This task should be given to an individual or small team with excellent communication skills – particularly writing skills.
The handbook should be treated like any other business document. It should be created through a series of drafts that are reviewed, edited, and approved. When it is finally completed, it can be published and distributed either on paper or in a digital format.
Employee handbooks are not a legal necessity, but they are wise idea. They keep everyone on the same page (pun intended) regarding employment and HR policies.