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Building a Better Employee Handbook

If you have employees, you need an employee handbook. Employee handbooks are notoriously boring and difficult to read, which defeats their primary purpose to inform your employees of your expectations and the laws and best practices that govern your business. A well-written handbook will help you establish a better relationship with your employees. The following information will help you develop a handbook that your employees will actually use.

  • Your handbook should be easy to read. The fact is, many employees will never read the whole handbook and even those who do will not remember everything. You are not writing an epic novel; your employee handbook is a reference tool and should be designed as such. Separate the book into sections, use tabs to separate the sections and make the first page an index so employees can quickly locate the topics they need. Bullet points and headers within sections also help add clarity. Use short simple sentences. Do not repeat information.

  • You do not have to start your handbook from scratch, but you will need to make it your own. There are a number of templates and tools available online that will give you the basic structure of an employee handbook. These may be a useful starting point, but simply adopting a free template without editing or reviewing it to meet the needs of your business is dangerous. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all handbook. Time spent developing your handbook is well spent.

  • Your handbook should cover the following topics:

  • Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Policies – You are responsible for complying with state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination. Your handbook should clearly define your policies. Make sure employees know that harassment and discrimination in the workplace are unacceptable and where to report violations (including those against an owner or manager). Taking accusations of discrimination or harassment seriously and following your written policies will help protect you and your business from potential liability.

  • Hiring – Your hiring policies may include rules on employee referrals, nepotism, posting open positions, internal hiring, new employee probationary periods and employee classifications.

  • Wages and Benefits – Include pay dates, timekeeping, an explanation of mandatory and voluntary deductions, overtime, bonuses, performance reviews and increases. You should include a list of employee benefits and eligibility requirements.

  • Work Schedule and Leave Policies – Clearly define work hours, breaks and scheduling, as well as vacation and time away from work policies.

  • Conduct – This section should include dress code requirements and general conduct during employment. If your industry has specific regulations for conduct make sure you include those requirements in this section as well. For example, the food service industry has standards for handling food, such as washing hands, wearing gloves and covering hair; these kinds of requirements should be included in your handbook.

  • Discipline and Termination – Setting a consistent standard of employee discipline is vital. Employees should understand potential disciplinary actions such as verbal warnings, written warnings, probation and termination.

  • Safety and Security – You should include information on compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. Visit the OSHA website to learn more. Security information should include details on the proper procedures for securing workspaces and sensitive information. Also, be sure to include your inclement weather and emergency closing procedures.

  • Technology Policies – Computers are an integral component of nearly every business. Your technology policy should include acceptable uses of company equipment and proper security procedures.

  • Confidentiality – If you require employees to sign non-disclosure agreements or conflict of interest statements, it is important to include that information and copies of those forms in your handbook. Also include requirements for confidentiality related to client data, particularly financial information and personally identifiable information.

  • Make sure your handbook complies with the law. Federal and local laws regulate wage and hour, health and safety, discrimination and many other portions of your handbook. Local laws and industry regulations vary greatly. It is vital that the information in your handbook conforms to the law and meets the specific needs of your business. Call your LegalShield provider law firm and have an attorney review your handbook for legal compliance.

  • Periodically review your handbook and make changes when needed. In business, you will learn many lessons the hard way and updating your handbook may help you avoid learning those lessons twice. Review and if necessary revise your handbook each year. Discuss changes in the law with your LegalShield attorney and revise your handbook accordingly. Be sure to provide your employees with updated information when revisions are made.

Call or contact Delaney Insurance Agency, Inc. with any questions or needs you may have. You can ask for our Risk Management & Compliance V.P., Glenn Salter at 909-481-7222 or email him directly at

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Tel: 909-481-7222
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