Federal and state laws mandate businesses communicate some policies in writing to employees. But, there are no laws that require a business to have an employee handbook. So why have one? Because the benefits go far beyond legal compliance. Whether you have a few employees or hundreds, an employee handbook can be a powerful business tool.
So why do many small businesses operate without one? According to labor and employment attorney, Beth Lincow-Cole, the reasons vary. Most often it is due to beliefs that putting things in writing will expose a business to greater liability. Also, some owners believe that federal and state laws only apply to businesses with more than 50 employees. These are myths.
Employee Handbook: Set Expectations
An employee handbook is a guide to help you communicate relevant information about your business in a way that is efficient and uniform. So employees know what you expect and what they can expect from you.
Clear, concise communication within a company can mitigate legal liability and risk. Sharing policies and expectations, in positive terms, can also give employees a sense of comfort and motivation. It helps to create a legally safe environment and also provides clarity and direction for your managers and supervisors.
What Is In An Employee Handbook
While the actual content and wording will vary by type of business, an employee handbook will typically cover the following areas:
- Company history, vision, mission, culture and goals so employees have a good understanding of your business and can help you achieve the results you desire.
- Policies relating to discrimination, harassment, disabilities, EEO, drug and alcohol testing and safety so employees understand your policies and how to rectify issues that may arise.
- Use of email, the internet, and social media so employees know what is and isn’t acceptable.
- Company benefits from health insurance and paid time off to workman’s compensation and leaves of absence.
- Performance reviews, compensation, rewards, and termination policies.
If you are ready to put an employee handbook in place, here’s a few things to consider. First, avoid language that implies lifetime employment or an employment contract, specific reasons for termination without a disclaimer for omitted items and wording that defeats the employment-at-will provisions that apply to many states, including New Jersey.
Second, if you begin the handbook process with something you purchase online or borrow from another company, have the handbook reviewed by an attorney to make sure it complies with state and federal laws AND is relevant for your business. It should reflect your operations, culture, and values.
Whether you do it yourself with a legal review or hire an employment law attorney to work with you directly, starting a company employee handbook can be a dreaded task. Beth’s advice, think of it as a marketing piece for your employees and don’t take yourself too seriously. The task becomes easier to swallow when you think of it as one of the most important documents in your business.
Ready to Put Your Business on the Path to Success?
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To learn more or schedule an appointment, call me at (856) 533-2344 or drop me an email Joan@HybridBizAdvisors.com