Employee Handbooks 101: Is Yours Up to Par?

A comprehensive and well-written employee handbook can be the first line of defense when it comes to protecting your company from litigation claims, in addition to spelling out in positive terms your company’s policies to employees.

Your employee handbook, though, doesn’t have to be as dull and redundant as some believe and if prepared properly can serve many beneficial purposes.

Why Have an Employee Handbook?

Developing a practical employee handbook is a critical, all-purpose tool that helps keep all of your employees on the same page by informing them of what you expect from them and what they can expect from your organization. Your handbook provides employees with a fundamental understanding of what your business is all about. It gives them a place to turn when they have questions and need guidance on what to do when situations arise in the workplace.

The benefits of introducing a potent employee handbook to your employees far outweigh the effort it takes to create one. Some of the benefits an employee handbook can provide include:

  • Educating employees about the organization, its history, and its origin.
  • Defining your company culture.
  • Motivating and engage employees.
  • Conveying useful information about company policies and procedures.
  • Reducing compliance exposures.
  • Helping with employee orientation and getting new employees up to speed.

What to Include in Your Company’s Handbook

An effective employee handbook for your company should effortlessly convey the following basic information to all your employees:

Your company’s history and who you are.

Introducing new employees to your company culture, mission, and values while reminding current employees of your company’s ideals and expectations gives each employee the opportunity to immerse themselves into truly understanding who your company is and what it’s all about.

Employee conduct and behavior.

Discussing the attendance policy, rest periods, dress code, Internet and e-mail policies, and any other key internal policies such as safety policies, harassment policies, drug and alcohol policies, and complaint procedures are essential for any employee handbook. Defining your expectations clearly in written form to your employees gives little room for interpretation.

Broad disciplinary actions may be included so that employees know there will be consequences if these expectations are not met; including too much detail about these actions is not advised.

State and federal laws regarding workplace safety and health.

State and federal workplace safety and health policies are required by law to be included in your employee handbook. Family medical leave policies, equal employment and non-discrimination policies, and workers compensation policies are only a few of those topics. Make sure to check locally, with your state, and on the federal level about what other policies you are legally required to include so that your handbook is complaint.

Employee benefits your company offers.

Details about the benefits your full-time and part-time employees are eligible for should always be included in employee handbooks for their reference. Some benefit topics that should be covered include vacation time (PTO), health insurance, retirement, and sick leave. In addition, special leave policies such as bereavement, military service, disability, voting leave, and so on should be written down clearly to let employees know exactly what they involve.


Every employee handbook should clearly state that the handbook is not a contract and it does not make any promises regarding continued employment. It should also be clarified that the policies in your company’s employee handbook are only guidelines and are subject to change as your company believes appropriate and necessary. Employees may receive new or modified policies, procedures, benefits, or programs at any time.

Although you may think you have nothing to worry about, getting a legal review of your handbook before distribution can ensure that you aren’t putting yourself in a compromising legal position with any of your wording throughout your company’s handbook. 

Distribution of your Employee Handbook

It’s necessary for your company’s employee handbook to be distributed to each employee in order for it to be of any use. Every new employee should receive a copy of the handbook and sign an acknowledgement that they have received it. This acknowledgment should be stored in their employee file.

Keeping paper or digital copies of your employee handbook that can be accessed easily by all employees is also fundamental. Once issues begin to arise, consult your company’s employee handbook for an appropriate solution. If you find you’re being asked a question repeatedly and the solution is not in your employee handbook, it may be time to amend it.


As your business grows and changes, it’s important to adapt your employee handbook respectively to these natural transitions. At least once a year, take the time to go through your handbook and update rules and policies that no longer apply. It may also be beneficial to ask your employees for their opinions of what policies and procedures they believe are no longer effective and adjust accordingly. Federal and state laws may also change within that time period so make sure to always be on the lookout.

Ultimately, an effective employee handbook not only serves the purpose of helping to protect your company against employment claims, but also provides insight to your employees regarding your company’s history and culture, appropriate conduct and behavior, the benefits your company offers, relevant state and federal laws, and other essential company policies for your employees to reference at any time. 

For more detailed information on employee handbooks and to access an array of HR resources, check out Abacus Payroll’s HR Services and the Mineral Platform. Pre-made letters, checklists, policies, and more on every HR topic can be at your fingertips 24/7.

Contact the professionals at Abacus Payroll, Inc. today to start utilizing our HR tools for all of your company’s human resources needs.

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