Employee Handbooks: An Essential Standard or Unnecessary Cost

Employee handbooks are a vital component of any business, whether small or large. There are many reasons as to why an employee handbook is so critical, some of these areas are:

  1. Creates a benchmark for employee expectations

  2. Ensures consistent treatment for each employee

  3. Outlines behavioral guidelines for employees and supervisors

  4. Gives steps and information regarding company policy and direction in general concerns

  5. Defense in Unemployment claims and lawsuits

An employee handbook creates the benchmark for your company concerning employee expectations.

Employees and employers both benefit from knowing and understanding what is expected from them while working for your company. These expectations are also what you will need to use when measuring employee performance if they are not meeting or exceeding expectations. If there isn't an expectation that creates a standard, you can measure an employee's performance accurately and consistently.

With expectations and procedures outlined in your handbook, you can ensure that all employees will be treated fairly and equally when following the outlined steps. Having expectations outlines helps your employee know what to expect, but it is also beneficial for the supervisor to follow. Many lawsuits are won by a disgruntled employee when there are signs of differential treatment among co-workers.

Your business is an extension of you, and your employees are representatives of your business. An employee's behavior can either bring you business or keep business from coming in. Your employee handbook will need to inform your employees how to conduct themselves while representing your business.

Outlining leave policies and steps on how to take leave are a vital component of employee handbooks.

This section informs an employee how accrual works, whether or not a specific paid leave is offered, and what forms of unpaid leave remain protected via Federal and state laws.

The first line of defense with current and former employees is a well-crafted employee handbook. Some might think, "I'll just use a template and put my company info in it." You can do this, but it comes at a higher risk and may do more harm than good.

Your employee handbook needs to be clear, concise, and accurate. An employee's handbook's credibility relies on its accuracy and applicability to your company; anything to the contrary can quickly discredit the handbook in its entirety.

So what are the guidelines for creating and updating our employee handbook? According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), "It [An Employee Handbook] provides guidance and information related to the organization's history, mission, values, policies, procedures, and benefits in a written format. It is also viewed as a means of protecting the employer against discrimination or unfair treatment claims." (SHRM, 2021) With that in mind, one of the best ways to develop and maintain an employee handbook is to look at it in sections:

  1. Welcome Message to New Employees and Recognition of Current Employees

  2. Policies and Procedures

  3. Benefits

  4. Employee and Employer Responsibility for Safety

  5. Procedures

  6. Summary and Acknowledgment

The sections above need to be broken down into all of their subsections. After you have gone through each section and have your employee handbook is published and ready for distribution, you will need to decide how the handbook will be distributed. Will each new employee receive the handbook by having it handed to them in a new hire orientation, emailed, or accessed in a shared drive?

Either way of distribution, you will need to ensure that all employees have equal access to the employee handbook.

You will also need to receive an acknowledgment receipt stating the employee has received the employee handbook and understands their responsibilities with understanding the handbook.

Once all is said and done, you will need to continue updating your handbook as necessary when employment laws change or your company policies change. A standard review timeline for an employee handbook is at least one to two years. In many cases, companies designate a point person to spearhead this task, as it can be very time-consuming.

In conclusion, it may seem like a daunting task, but it is a vital task to complete. In truth, it is an essential standard for any company to be successful. That is why small businesses turn to us at Higher Design. We offer Employee handbook reviews as well as creation for your business, so reach out today!

Stay safe and Press on!

Higher Design, LLC


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