[aa_subtitle_display]Think an employee handbook is just a useless binder that gathers dust? If so, you may be risking lawsuits and risking resources. A well-crafted and updated employee handbook is an essential tool for running and protecting a business.
Communication is Key
It sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. Your employees aren’t mind readers, so an employee handbook will clearly lay out the company’s expectations from them and what they can expect from the company. It will clearly outline policies so that all employees, new and existing, will be able to understand the expectations.
Handbooks may set some rules for performance and behavior. Have employees sign a form to confirm that they have received and read a copy of the handbook so that if an employee breaks a rule, there will be proof that they knew the behavior was wrong. Knowing the expectations from the get-go should help employees to behave and join in to the workplace culture.
Simply having a handbook can also help to keep communication lines open. By outlining to whom employees should go with issues or disputes, it encourages employees to try to resolve the problem in-house rather than immediately seeking outside legal counsel.
They Can Help You Prevent – or Win – Lawsuits
Any company that employs people is at risk of a lawsuit, but a well-written handbook can reduce that risk. Handbooks may state that the company provides at-will employment, so that the employee or employer can terminate the employment with or without notice and with or without a reason (as opposed to an employment contract.) Simply stating that all employees are employed at-will can protect companies from wrongful termination lawsuits, but handbooks can help even beyond this.
Outlining company policies and adherence to labor laws can also protect companies. A handbook that lays out policies in compliance with laws can be evidence that your company follows the law.
Employee handbooks can also help companies to avoid harassment lawsuits. If an employee sues for harassment and claims that the company provided a hostile work environment, the employer may choose to use an affirmative defense. To do this, the employer must prove that they had an anti-harassment policy, which would be detailed in an employee handbook.
Saves Employee Time
As mentioned earlier, the handbook is an important resource for many employees. When employees can refer to the handbook to check on policies, they’ll save time by not having to ask their supervisor or the human resources department. It can also save time during onboarding, since you can give a new employee a handbook instead of having to tell them the policies and just hope they retain it all.
Creating the Right Handbook
Employee handbooks are not a one-size-fits-all document, so it is not advisable to simply find a generic one on the internet. The handbook needs to include policies that your company actually follows, otherwise staff will not take it seriously. It also needs to comply with local state laws. If you need to create an employee handbook from scratch, consult a lawyer or a PEO.