HR experts agree that small and medium sized businesses should create handbooks as protection from lawsuits, but handbooks can also serve to welcome and inform new employees in a positive way. The success of a handbook is determined by what policies are included and how they are worded. A good handbook is a living document that reflects the true culture of the business.
The Basic Do’s. Things to Include in Every Handbook
• With each edition, mention that this document trumps any other policy documents and is subject to change.
• Include wording that states at no time does this document create or intend to create an employment contract. In Oregon, this is where to mention the ‘at will’ employment.
• How the company addresses any harassment or complaints of harassment. Having a clear policy can protect against misunderstandings in the future, good protection should an employer find themselves in a legal situation.
• Employee acknowledgement page. This can be a simple page where new employees indicate they have received and read a copy of the handbook.
• Anything else about how policies are administered. This can serve as a resource to existing employees who may have questions about how to handle things like: Jury duty leave, overtime, or pay periods, etc. And will ensure polices are administered consistently.
Going Further. Including Policies Unique to Your Organization.
• Paid time off policy. How much time is accrued exactly and when? How is it carried over? Is there a maximum cap? Putting this in writing can have full cycle impact from winning candidates in the early stages of recruiting all the way through to administrating the policy in a predictable way.
• Employee behavior and performance reviews. What specifically do you desire from your employees? How and when will they be rewarded for that behavior? Clearly laying out the companies philosophy about reviews sets universal expectations that top employees will seek to achieve.
• Pay raises and promotions. Does your organization tie pay raises in with an annual review cycle, balanced score card or something else? How can top contributors advance in the company? Knowing this information gives employees a clear picture about how they will be recognized for their contribution.
Whether you choose to include just the basics or publish a more robust document, remember, employers should be prepared to enforce any policies included in the handbook. Just because its written in the handbook doesn’t mean the behavior automatically follows, it will be up to the managers to enforce what’s been written. Ultimately, a good handbook assures employees that their employer is committed to treating them fairly, freeing staff from worrying about policy, allowing them to do their best work.