Employee Handbook Essentials

As a Human Resource consultant, I have been asked, “How important is it to have an employee handbook/manual” And the add-on question is, “What goes into an employee handbook”

The first question can be pluses and minuses to a business owner - employment lawyers, consultants, and managers of organizations all disagree on the value of employee manuals. This disagreement comes from whether or not a manual is considered by the courts to be a contract for employment. Also, if not written correctly, the manual may inadvertently guarantee job security.

However, on the plus side, a handbook or manual can help increase morale. This is because when your employment practices are in writing, your employees feel they are being handled consistently and fairly. A well-written manual can save time because the employee know they can get the information they need about benefits, policy, procedures, etc. without interrupting their manager. In addition, handbooks and manuals provide the company with documentation that they are in compliance with important laws and regulations, that if not actively placed in the manual might be ignored (due to not knowing about it) or might prove to be unenforceable as you had not informed your employees about it.

So, the essentials of what goes in your manual would be:

1. Compliance with all the applicable laws and regulations - both federal and state and in some instances local.

2. Although it may be helpful to review other handbooks for ideas and layout, you need to customize the manual to your company and include the policies that are part of your organization. Someone Else’s handbook may not be appropriate to your organization.

3. Only include policies in your handbook that you can support and follow. It will do you more harm if you put a policy in place and don’t follow it.

4. It is okay to have disclaimers. Content for disclaims vary due to state regulations, so check those state requirements before adding a disclaimer. Make sure the disclaimer you use is clear and placed to be noticed.

5. Where appropriate, leave room for your managers and supervisors to handle violations of policies. Be able to allow them flexibility based on their judgment and experience.

6. Always require a signed acknowledgement that the employee has reviewed and received the manual. This signed document should be placed in their personnel file with a copy to the employee for their records.

7. Date any revisions and have the employee place them in their manual with a new acknowledgement signed and filed.

Remember, an out of date handbook is not only useless but may also create a risk to your company. Stay current on laws and regulations and keep your manual up to date.


Lola Kakes is the CEO and chief visionary of EffortlessHR.com, an Internet based human resource management system for small to mid-sized companies. Lola developed EffortlessHR.com as an affordable, comprehensive program to give entrepreneurs time to focus on their business while developing their employees.

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