Top 10 Essential Components of an Employee Handbook

Creative Business Solutions (CBS) strongly believes in Employee Handbooks which are well written, culturally appropriate to the employer and concise. One of the most important forms of documentation your business can have is an Employee Handbook. Not only does an Employee Handbook help protect your company's best business interests, this document also provides your employees general information about working conditions and benefits. CBS has crafted many Employee Handbooks for non-profits and for profits of all sizes and we have found that certain common themes and "must-haves" are essential components to consider in an employee handbook.

1. Nature of Employment (At-Will Statement)

Kansas is an employment at-will state. Therefore, by law, an individual's employment is employment at-will. Just as the employee is free to resign at any time, the company reserves the right to terminate the employee at any time, with or without cause and with or without prior notice. This language must be in every Employee Handbook.

2. Mission Statement

By including the mission statement in an Employee Handbook, a company is conveying the importance of that mission and working towards meeting the overall goals of the organization. By educating employees on the mission statement and expectations, employees are more aware of how they can work towards meeting company goals themselves. Most employees enjoy feeling like they have a purpose and are an essential key player in meeting company expectations.

3. Harassment

Harassment policies should state, point blank, that harassment in any form is not tolerated. Any form of harassment will include, but is not limited to, sexual harassment or harassment based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, disability or any other protected class. It is also important to provide employees with instructions for reporting complaints of harassment or discrimination, including to whom to address their concerns. If they do not feel comfortable going to their supervisor or the human resources department, do they have other options? Thinking from an employee's point of view can help with this policy.

4. Social Media

The National Labor Relations Board recently released an approved version of a social media policy. Social sites like Facebook and Twitter are continually becoming more popular and employers should safeguard both their employees and themselves. Social media policies should address proper use of social media, define improper use of social media and include any consequential actions that may be taken if the policy is not followed, such as disciplinary action up to and including termination.

5. Problem Resolution – (Open Door Policy)

The culture of your business is important to both current and future employees. By implementing an open door policy, employees will be encouraged to address their concerns to their supervisors or the leadership team, rather than discussing the issues with co-workers or on a social media outlet. It is important for employees to feel they are a top priority and that the organization is committed to addressing their concerns in a timely and fair manner.

6. Progressive Discipline

CBS strongly believes in the "duty to warn, opportunity to cure" philosophy. Progressive discipline models this philosophy. If an employee is not aware he/she is doing something wrong, how can he/she correct the issue? Typically, progressive discipline includes a verbal warning, written warning, final warning, and if necessary, termination of employment. It is also important to make certain the policy specifically states that the employer has the authority to deviate from these progressive discipline steps, based on the situation. It is also important to offer employees the opportunity to improve their behavior.

7. Paid Time Off (PTO)

PTO is important to both employees and the company they work for. PTO (or vacation) provides time to relax, be away from work, recover from an illness and enjoy personal activities, among other reasons. A PTO policy should provide employees information related to the time off work they are permitted to take, and also in what increments or frequencies they are allowed to do so.

8. Benefits

Typically, CBS recommends that companies outline the scope of their benefit programs in the Employee Handbook. From health insurance benefits to retirement plans, employees are interested in the perks of working for your company. Defining the eligibility, terms, pricing information and other important benefits will help ease any questions employees may have. However, it is not necessary to include the entire benefit plan in the Employee Handbook.

9. Attendance/Punctuality

Referring back to the philosophy of "duty to warn, opportunity to cure", by conveying the importance of your expectations to employees during the initial orientation meeting, you are preparing them to succeed. Additionally, timeliness is of the essence and if all of your employees model good attendance then your company will be reflected positively... and successfully!

10. Acknowledgement of Understanding

This is the most critical component of an Employee Handbook. Companies may create policies, but unless employees sign an acknowledgement of understanding and receipt, the policies have no meaning. An acknowledgement of understanding outlines an employee's understanding that he/she will comply with the policies set forth within the document, while also acknowledging the company has the right to amend, revise and/or remove any policies within the Employee Handbook at any time.

Creative Business Solutions designs and/or updates Employee Handbooks for clients on almost a daily basis. We enjoy learning about the culture of your company so we can better customize the Employee Handbook to the specific needs of your business. CBS specializes in ensuring each of our valued clients is in compliance with all laws and regulations applicable to their businesses and can provide the customized employee handbook, or Human Resources outsourcing solutions, that your business needs.

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