One of the most important communication tools between an employer and employees is the employee handbook. Not only does this document set forth expectations and legal information on behalf of the employer, but it also provides insight to employees on what they can expect from the company.
Many companies make the mistake of having an employee handbook that is outdated and full of jargon – information that you would need a law degree to understand. In my role at Kirk-Pinkerton, I have the pleasure of assisting and consulting with clients regularly to create and edit employee handbooks. It’s important to understand the dos and don’ts of an employee handbook and the items you should include.
As an employer, there are many items to consider including in your employee handbook. The following ten items listed are, in my opinion, in this top 10 list of information to provide your employees. For additional information or assistance in bringing your handbook up to code, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 941-364-2404 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top 10 Items to Include in your Employee Handbook
- Standards of Conduct: This is an opportunity for you, as an employer, to express expectations of how the employees should conduct themselves. This can include:
- Provisions on ethics, dress and appearance, use of company property, use of company technology and use of company vehicles, when applicable.
- Issues on release of information to the public and solicitation.
- Information about a safe work environment with clauses regarding drug-free, tobacco-free and violence-free policies, discrimination and harassment policies. Please note that law requires many of the provisions listed above.
- Requirements can also include equal employment opportunity, Americans with Disability Act and others. By including all required policies, you can ensure legal compliance.
- Computers and Technology: Due to the nature of business and technology, this section is now a critical component in any employee handbook to outline policies for appropriate computer and software use. Take the opportunity to address:
- Issues surrounding securing electronic information
- How to handle information collected from customers, Internet policies and the use of sonic walls or similar Internet screening tools, which might apply to your business.
- Separations: In this portion of the handbook, employers should speak to:
- What the employee can typically expect in the event of a resignation, dismissal or discipline
- Retirement and employment conclusion
- The process for exit interviews, return of property, leave payouts, outstanding financial obligations to the employer and any other issues that may arise.
- Employee Performance: Important to both employer and employee, this portion provides information on:
- How employees are evaluated
- Performance improvement plans and how often they might be implemented to identify and correct performance deficiencies
- Media Relations: This section is not always applicable to employers; however, it is a good idea to have a plan in place. In this portion, include:
- Information on how employees are expected to handle calls regarding media inquiries.
- When applicable, list a single point of contact for media inquires.
- Compensation: In addition to providing compensation information, the handbook can clearly explain:
- Required deductions employers take for federal and state taxes
- Voluntary deductions for benefit programs.
- Provisions concerning overtime pay, salary increases when tied to performance reviews, timekeeping records and bonuses.
- Employee Benefits: This important section will give information regarding:
- All employee benefit programs and eligibility requirements. Many benefits are required by law to be properly listed.
- Insurance information for health, dental, life insurance and any other options to the extent that the benefits are offered.
- Pension plans, voluntary benefit programs including medical or child care withholding accounts, deferred compensation plans and workers’ compensation plans, when applicable.
- You may also want to list the company’s point of contact for questions or more information.
- Leaves of Absence: It might be tempting to list this information elsewhere, but it is a good idea to list separately because of the applicability of laws which dictate employer policy. The employer and employee must be sure to carefully document leaves including:
- Family medical leave, jury duty, military leave, and time off for court cases as well as voting as required by law.
- Holiday leave, annual leave, sick leave, bereavement and any other forms of leave offered by your company.
- Work Schedules: Utilize this section to describe policies surrounding:
- Work hours, schedules, attendance, punctuality and reporting absences.
- Overtime or compensatory time policies.
- Depending on the type of work force, it can be a good idea to include policies referencing on-call status, call back status and any other work schedule circumstances.
- General employment provisions: In this portion of the handbook, include:
- An overview of your business and employment qualifications such as citizenship, criminal history and veteran’s preference.
- Your company’s compliance with occupational safety and health administrational laws to address safety and security issues.
- Information regarding accidents, injuries, bad weather and hazardous community situations.
- Employment status, new employee orientation, introductory periods for employees, free periods for employees, anti-nepotism policies and reasonable accommodations.
- Outline non-disclosure agreements, non-compete agreements and conflicts of interest, if you decide to list within the handbook or in another document.
It is important to note that an employee handbook should not be treated as an employment contract; rather, it is used to establish and create a productive and harmonious work environment. Ultimately, this is a chance for a company to showcase a strong mission and a desire to uphold a positive work environment and a culture that cares.
For 25 years, Robinson has represented clients in the state and federal courts in Florida. He has tried jury and non-jury cases in commercial matters as well as personal injury torts. His primary areas of practice include local government law, land use law, labor and employment law, commercial litigation and appellate practice. His practice is focused in the Sarasota area, but he has represented clients from Jacksonville to the Florida Keys.
From 2001-14, Robinson served as the city attorney for North Port, Florida, and he and other members of the firm provided general legal services and litigation representation for the city. Robinson also has extensive experience in land use issues, including developments of regional impact, independent and dependent special district law, comprehensive plan amendments, rezoning and special assessments.
He provides labor and employment law representation to the Sarasota County School Board and has been involved in numerous arbitrations and administrative hearings on behalf of this and other clients in the field of public labor and employment law. Robinson’s labor and employment law practice includes collective bargaining, impasse proceedings, grievances, termination, work place discrimination, harassment and retaliation, and general human resource operations.