When Should a Company Have an Employee Handbook?
What is an Employee Handbook and Why Do We Need One?
An Employee Handbook is a guide that gives organizations a tool to communicate the expectations, role and responsibilities, as well as current policies and procedures within the organization to all employees. Legally there is no requirement for companies to provide an employee handbook; it does however, offer confirmation of processes and procedures if ever questioned legally. When a company reaches 15 employees, it's time to implement an employee handbook as a best practice. This is because at 15 employees, several federal acts apply such as the Civil Rights, Americans with Disabilities, and the Pregnancy Leave Act.
What to Include in an Employee Handbook:
Companies should also have an employee handbook to not only ensure compliance with HR legal regulations, but also to include information about the company's history, goals and culture. For new employees, a handbook provides a sense of being a part of the organization and provide a positive impact on employees by letting them know how their involvement helps lead to the company's success.
The following policies, language and/or pages should be considered for inclusion in the handbook:
- “Employment at will” language if the company operates in At Will states.
- Version control language stating the policies in the handbook may be subject to change at the discretion of management.
- Acknowledgement form for all employees to sign once they have received and read the handbook.
- Administrative policies such as pay cycle; standard operating hours; holiday schedule; how to request vacation time; vacation accrual rate if applicable; definition of full-time (FT) status; i.e. number of hours worked each week to be considered full-time.
- Benefits information including eligibility.
- Email and computer usage.
- Leaves of Absence including FMLA and Military Leave.
- EEO and Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment policies.
- Accident reporting procedures for Worker's Compensation.
- Accommodation of disabilities.
How Often Does an Employee Handbook Need to Be Updated?
A best practice when developing a handbook is to create a schedule to review and revise the handbook each year. Create a process and plan for circulating the revised handbook to all employees in a timely manner. Have the employees sign a new acknowledgment form annually to ensure they have seen any policy changes. If after the annual review there have been no changes a best practice is to update the version on the handbook to stay consistent with your version control schedule.
For more information about employee handbooks, here's another article my colleague wrote on "The Most Common Problems with Employee Handbooks".