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Why an employee handbook is necessary for all businesses

There is a great deal of conflicting information about whether companies should have an employee handbook. While it may be tempting to push the decision aside and focus on more pressing matters, there is no question that havinga well-crafted, attorney-approved handbook can limit exposure to many complicated issues for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Understanding the laws around compliance and execution of a handbook is very important, as Walmart discovered in a $180 million class-action lawsuit. This example illustrates a “big fish” verdict, however, smaller employers are just as much at risk for lawsuits.

Once a decision, always a decision

An organization’s managers need to adopt this mantra. For example, if a certain employee is offered paid time off or is paid for jury duty, company leaders must be prepared to follow through with this action for every other employee in the future. Employee handbooks help clarify expectations and provides both managers and employees a place to find answers to common questions.

Who is keeping track of all this?

Most SMB owners are flying at 30,000 feet. As a result, the ins and outs of daily operations may not always be on their radar. Who remembers if they paid people to take the day off after Thanksgiving last year?  How many days did we give Sally when her mother passed away?  Trying to remember all of the “one-offs” can become time consumptive and can leave situations open to interpretation which can lead to confusion, frustration, and potential litigation.

Peeking around corners is a good thing

It is always a good idea, when given the opportunity, to research employee handbooks from other companies. It will be an eye-opening experience that will provide a glimpse at a wide range of topics that might be worth consideration for your own organization.

Start with your culture

Your handbook should reflect an organization’s values and culture. While crafting the handbook, leaders should dig deep to understand the culture of their organization and then transfer those values to the handbook.

Partner with professionals

While it might be tempting to utilize the multitude of handbook templates offered online, it is always best to work with an HR professional who can identify information, assemble it in an organized manner, and finalize the handbook with your guidance. A final step should always be to have a local labor attorney review the handbook to ensure it is in compliance with the law.

Keep the content general and include a disclaimer

A handbook’s content should be relevant and general in nature. Some policies should not be detailed in a handbook, especially those that pertain to only certain groups of employees, are state specific, or are very fluid like health care. A disclaimer should always be included, so as not to imply a contract.

Having a well-thought-out and carefully crafted employee handbook saves organizations  time and money while helping clarify a company’s culture to both new and seasoned employees.