What Components Make the Best Employee Handbook?

With all the buzz around employee handbooks, it’s clear they’re a crucial part of onboarding. Here’s how to build the best employee handbook.

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There are all kinds of things you probably never thought you’d find yourself doing until you became a small business owner. Fretting over creating the best employee handbook possible might be one of those things.

Considering how important an employee handbook is—from keeping your company compliant to creating a seamless onboarding experience for new hires—it stands to reason that any savvy small business owner understands how essential it is to get it right.

If you’re a small business owner looking to create the best employee handbook for your company, look no further. Here’s what you should consider along your endeavor.

First– is an employee handbook required?

While employee handbooks aren’t required, a certain degree of communication between employer and employees is required. There are no laws mandating that companies create an employee handbook, but there are laws that govern communication with employees, such as a requirement to communicate certain policies to employees in writing in many states. This is why, while not explicitly required, introducing a comprehensive employee handbook is good practice.

When done right, the best employee handbooks benefit both the employer (by making sure that legal needs are met while explicitly communicating company guidelines) and employees (by creating one place where all essential information related to working at your company is housed).

How do I make the best employee handbook that I can?

The place to start when making the best employee handbook for your company is by doing exactly that—making it for your company. There are plenty of templates out there and they can be helpful, but make sure that you’re customizing it to fit your small business’ needs.

After you’ve started tackling the project with the right mindset, you should consider which elements and policies are crucial for your company. Then determine how best to communicate those policies based on your business practices.

Which policies should I include in my employee handbook?

What are those particular policies, you ask? While this list is hardly exhaustive, some of the common elements included in the best employee handbooks around include:

  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policies. This is an act that all employees should be aware of. Family and medical leave is also often a legally required communication in many states.
  • Equal employment and non-discrimination policies. While it may feel like anti-discrimination policies should be common knowledge, spelling it out in your handbook gives you an opportunity to outline the consequences for discriminatory behavior. Even if it should go without saying, you should still say it.
  • Workers’ compensation policies. These policies often explain the percentage of an employee’s regular compensation that is paid by workers’ compensation.
  • Paid Time Off (PTO) policies. Policies around PTO, unpaid vacation, working from home, and similar policies should be spelled out as explicitly as possible in your employee handbook so there’s no confusion about what is (and isn’t) allowed.
  • Benefits. Every employee wants to know what, exactly, their benefits entail. Including them in your employee handbook means that your employees have a handy reference available at all times.
  • Product information. Is there a product (or products) that your company distributes? Is there an internal system that every employee uses in one way or another? Use your employee handbook as an opportunity to explain the central elements of your business to everyone.
  • Company history and culture. It’s become a trend in recent years, especially within businesses that pride themselves on a particular company culture, to cover history and culture in the employee handbook so that everyone is on the same page.
  • Employee expectations. When it comes to things like what constitutes professional behavior at your organization and dress code, your employee handbook should clearly spell out any expectations you have of your employees within its pages.
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