What Not To Include in Your Employee Handbook

There’s a lot of guidance out there about policies to include in a new hire guide– but do you know what not to include in your employee handbook?

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What not to include in your employee handbook

The employee handbook is often a new hire’s first exposure to the culture of your company. There are many guidelines and suggestions as to what should be addressed, but are you aware of what not to include in your employee handbook?

Weather for fear of information overload, or potential legal pitfalls, here are some examples of what not to include in your employee handbook.

Overly complicated or outdated policies

If you want employees to follow policies it’s important to make them clear and concise. There is no way to anticipate every situation that may arise, so it’s best to write policies in a broad enough manner that they can be interpreted accurately in almost any situation. It’s also a good practice to continuously update your employee handbook to address any new situations that occur and record how they were handled.

Be sure to outline the exact steps to a procedure if they are all vital. Include clear cut guidelines as to how you would like common issues addressed. 

Restrictive disciplinary procedures

While it is important to clearly outline procedures for handling disciplinary concerns, be sure to allow for manager discretion in unique situations. Particularly in the case of an employee’s first offense. Keep in mind there may be instances which require less intervention and on the contrary, there may be instances which would benefit from a skipped step and faster action. Anticipate common errors and behavioral issues and outline these instances clearly but remember that predicting day to day happenings is impossible.

It’s also a good idea to implement an employee handbook acknowledgment form. Employees should clearly understand behavioral and professional expectations, so any disciplinary actions do not come as a surprise.

Taking a ‘big brother’ stance on social media

While you would like to be sure employees are not berating your company to all of their friends and followers, you must be careful when treading the waters of the social sphere. Employees have certain rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Employees have the right to discuss wages and work frustrations with others without fear of disciplinary action. You may ask that employees take the high road when speaking about your organization but you may not demand restrictive policies in this case.

Implied promises

A good practice is to include a statement at the beginning of your handbook, which clearly tells your new employee that signing to acknowledge receipt of the handbook is not a contractual guarantee of employment. Be sure to use words like “may” instead of “will.” Clearly outline instances that “may” lead to termination but do not ever make promises either for continued employment or termination.

Also, note that calling the first 90 days a “probationary” period is somewhat less accepted than in the past, as it negates the concept of willful employment. It is better to title the first 90 days as an “introductory period” or something to this effect.

Creating your employee handbook can feel like a daunting undertaking. Taking note of what not to include in your employee handbook will hopefully help you scale down the task, and have a better understanding of employee rights vs. employer needs and regulations.

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