An employee handbook can be a valuable communication resource for employers and employees. It provides written guidance and information related to the history, mission, values, policies, procedures and benefits of the organization. It is also seen as a way to protect employers from claims of discrimination or unfair treatment. It is an easily accessible guide that outlines company policies and practices as well as management expectations. Common key employment terms (KETs), e.g. leave policy, medical benefits, can be provided in employee handbook.
Vice versa, a policy is a written statement that describes the employer’s standards and objectives in relation to various employee activities and employment -related matters.
The employer shall require each employee to provide written confirmation of receipt of the handbook. Acknowledgments should be kept in the employee’s personnel file as a way for the organization to determine that the employee is aware of the policy. The manual should not be construed as an employment agreement.
Step 1: Review and Make Necessary Revisions to Current Company Policies
Company policies and procedures were used as a source for handbook preparation.
Employers should scan the work environment to find out common practices that currently exist; if there is no policy, it should be implemented. Once employer has updated policies and formalized common practices, HR should review them, and use these final policies to develop employee handbook.
Step 2: Outline the Content to Include in the Employee Handbook
Topics included in the employee handbook should include the employer’s mission statement, equal employment opportunity statement, contract disclaimer and at-will employment statement (where allowed), the purpose of the employee handbook and background information about the company. The decision to include other topics is up to the employer. An important factor to consider is the mandate of laws that affect employees, such as the Employment Act, the Workplace Safety and Health Act, the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA), and the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices. If an employer fails to provide this information in an employee handbook, it can lead to confusion and non-compliance with the law. Examples of table of contents can be found at the end of this guide.
Step 3: Create a Summarized Version of Each Policy and Procedure
The employee handbook should contain a statement summarizing each policy and procedure. The statement should be easy to read and not contain legal language — in other words, it should speak to an audience of employees and be formulated accordingly.
Step 4: Add Each Summary Statement in the Appropriate Section according to the Outline
Once HR has completed the employee handbook guidelines, the next step is to write the organization’s position, rules or policies under each outline topic.
Step 5: Review the Entire Handbook
The review process ensures the information is accurate and easy to understand. The handbook can be reviewed by HR, the project team, or both.
Step 6: Select a Publishing Means
The next step is to find a vendor to produce a complete employee handbook. Organizations can obtain a Request for Proposals from a select number of vendors. After selecting a vendor, the employer should work with the vendor to complete each step in the publishing process, including formatting the handbook into specific sizes and styles. Once formatted, final reviews and approvals must be made before submitting the handbook for printing.
Step 7: Distribute the Handbook
Once the vendor returns copies of the completed handbook, the organization must establish a method for distribution, such as during a new recruitment orientation or as a manual distribution to employees.
Some employers publish handbook electronically using their intranet or internal email; however, physical copies should be provided to employees who do not have access to the Internet or at the request of an employee. Posting an employee handbook on the company intranet or via email is also useful when changes to policies and need to be communicated with employees. Save on printing costs with online access for employees - each employee will login to access their handbook.
Step 8: Update as Needed
Employers should appoint a person responsible for updating the employee handbook when employment laws or internal policies change. It is also important to conduct a full handbook review on a regular basis (e.g. every 1 to 2 years) to ensure no legal or policy changes have been overlooked and all policies remain relevant and consistently supported within the organization.
The following is an example of an outline or Table of Contents for items that are typically included in an employee handbook.
1. Welcome Message to New Employees and Recognition of Current Employees
Company Mission Statement
Equal Opportunity Statement
Contractual Disclaimer and At-Will Statement
Purpose of the Employee Handbook
Background Information on the Company
2. Policies and Procedures
Drug and Alcohol
Violence and Weapons
Hours of Work
Meal and Rest Periods
Termination: Reduction in Force, Layoff/Recall
Family and Medical Leave
Paid Time Off
Retirement and Pension Plans
Educational Assistance Program
4. Employee and Employer Responsibility for Safety
Commitment of the Company
Personal Protective Equipment
OSHA Requirements: Safety Rules, Reporting Accidents
1. Standards of Conduct
2. Progressive Discipline
3. Exit Process
6. Summary and Acknowledgment
1. The Importance of the Policies and Procedures
2. Acknowledgment of Receipt
It should also include an additional disclaimer that the employer has the right to change the rules without notice, that hiring is at will (where allowed), and that the handbook does not create a contract.
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Any employee handbooks should be reviewed for compliance with laws and regulations and should be modified to suit your organization's culture, industry and practices. Bestar offers service for creating an Employee Handbook for your company. Bestar takes the work out of creating and maintaining an employee reference manual.
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