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The Green Sheet Online Edition

April 28, 2014 • Issue 14:04:02

How to compose an employee handbook

By Vicki M. Daughdrill
Small Business Resources LLC

An employee handbook provides a communication tool between you and your employees to establish your expectations of your employees and define what they can expect from you and your company. This handbook also provides guidelines on how to manage your employee relationships ethically and with consistency so there is no perceived favoritism.

Clearly written policies covering the rights and responsibilities of employees can prevent lawsuits based on sexual harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, inappropriate hiring practices or any number of other labor law issues, according to the U. S. Supreme Court. Lawsuits are an increasingly large concern for employers; in the past decade, both the number of lawsuits filed by employees and the amount of award damages have dramatically increased.

Commonly known as an employee manual or handbook, this document brings together employment, job-related information, and details of company policies and procedures into one central location. A number of sample handbooks are available online at no cost or low cost. Just be aware that one size does not fit all.

Be sure the document you purchase complies with the laws in your state. Since this handbook becomes a legal document, and you can inadvertently create contracts or other legal documents, it is imperative that you purchase a handbook, preferably one that has been legally tested and proven, from a reliable source, or have an employment-law attorney review any handbook you write.

Here are just a few of the topics and information that should be included in any employee handbook.

Welcome letter

  • Welcome statement and wishes for success
  • At-will employment statement
  • A brief history of the company
  • Mission statement
  • Goals, objectives and values statements

Orientation process

  • Proof of identity
  • Eligibility to work in the United States
  • Tax forms
  • Drug screening
  • Introductory (or probationary) time and process

Employment information

  • Status
  • Full time versus part time
  • Exempt versus nonexempt
  • Compensation structure
  • Timekeeping

Pay and benefits

  • Pay periods
  • Method of payment
  • Paid time off
  • Retirement
  • Paid holidays


  • Use of company equipment and technology
  • Social media
  • Sexual harassment policies
  • Discrimination
  • Health and safety
  • Alcohol and drug usage
  • Grounds for termination
  • Discipline ladder
  • Due process
  • Grievances
  • Termination

Confidentiality and nondisclosure

  • Confidentiality statement
  • Code of conduct
  • Grounds for termination
  • Noncompete policies
  • Nondisclosure policies

Legal compliance

  • OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
  • Family medical leave

Other items

  • Dress code
  • Media communications
  • Weapons
  • Jury duty
  • Any other miscellaneous items
Every handbook must contain an acknowledgement and receipt for the employee to sign. It should clearly state that the employee read the handbook, understands the policies and procedures included in it, had an opportunity to ask questions, and agrees to abide by the policies set forth. It should also state that failure to follow the policies will lead to discipline up to and including termination. This acknowledgement and receipt is part of the employee's permanent personnel folder.

In addition, if you live in an at-will state, where an employee can be dismissed by an employer for any reason and without warning, you should restate the "employment at will" status and clearly state that the contents are policies, procedures and guidelines and are not intended in any way to create a contract.

Vince Lombardi said, "The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand." Take the time necessary to start your new employee on the road to success by providing a comprehensive, detailed handbook to follow.

Remember, the handbook is a fluid document and should be updated, amended and added to at least once each year. Good luck to you as you continue on this journey to improve your business. end of article

Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. E-mail her at vickid@netdoor.com or call her at 601-310-3594.

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