Employee Handbooks: Why Are They Needed?

top-10-employee-handbook-mistakesIt’s the first day of your new hire arriving on the job. You’re excited to introduce him or her to your company and get him or her started on her new position and teach what needs to be taught for a productive relationship.

At the same time, the first day can be boring during the fst few hours, when there are papers to sign and forms to fill out regarding employment, tax status, retirement and insurance benefits plans. But as this is your first hire, you have not yet created an employee handbook, because you think to yourself, “Oh, I can talk about this stuff in person with my new hire and let him/her pass it along to the next hire.”

That might be a noble idea, to secure an employment contract with a handshake, but there are a few compelling reasons why you should have a written employee handbook available for all employees. We’ll go over five such reasons here.

  1. It’s law-compliant.

An employee handbook isn’t required by law per se, but having key information about your company’s full intent to be compliant with federal and state employment laws will benefit both parties in this labor contract. Using the handbook to spell out the compliant policies and procedures of your company – rather than expressing them verbally – serves as protection to both parties in case of a legal misunderstanding. Having those policies (such as how to handle family and/or military leave) in writing can be valuable for both parties in understanding priorities and values for the company.

As your business continues to grow, you will hire more and more people. And there may come a time where you can’t express your policies, values and mission to every employee personally. And if you know the game “Telephone,” you would be well-served to have a handbook that communicates policies and procedures to each and every employee so there is no misunderstanding or miscommunication. After all, the written word doesn’t change from person to person.

  1. Expect expectations.

The employment contract isn’t just an agreement for an employer to pay a worker to work. An employee handbook can help provide further context and detail for the contract, which should include certain expectations that the employer will expect from the employee (including code of conduct, not sharing trade secrets with others, etc.), and the employee will know what to expect from the employer to honor the employment contract.

  1. Legal Protection.

No matter how well you treat your employees, there likely will come a time when someone who is or was in your employ will try to sue you for some reason. An employee handbook (along with an acknowledgment page” that the employee signs) can be a great protection for both parties – on the one hand, a written handbook that is comprehensive can help a petitioner’s lawyer to determine if there even is cause for a lawsuit, and it protects the employer against the claim as long as the issue is addressed in the handbook. The handbook shows “reasonable care” to the employee, which would negate many lawsuits.

A well-written employee handbook not only informs the employee of the culture, values, and mission of the company and the company’s commitment to federal and state employment laws, but it also can be an assistant to the employee in providing key information about where to go for help with any issue – whether it’s about safety, compensation, family/personal problems that affect work, sharing of ideas or any other issue. Showing that there is a support system in place can often be enough to leave employees satisfied. Providing support resources shows that you have compassion for the employee and you know the value of a healthy employee leading to a healthy workplace and culture.