Protect Yourself and Your Employees Through an Employee Handbook

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

Large organizations typically maintain an entire human resources department with directors, generalists, and associates all brought together to handle employee issues. Smaller companies with a handful of employees don’t have the resources to develop HR arms. Often, you or a trusted office employee is the HR department, and employee matters take a backseat to more important functions such as sales and marketing. But just because you wear a lot of hats, those other roles should not prevent you from creating policy and procedure for employees. Producing an employee handbook presents the easiest way to stay consistent and compliant when it comes to personnel management. Written HR documents provide clear-cut guidelines for employees to reference when questions about vacation or tardiness arise.

What to Include in the Handbook?

Many workplace policies need to be included in the handbook, but one of the more important areas involves terminations. Developing rigid disciplinary rules helps protect you from legal action undertaken by former employees who may feel slighted. In the document, you should clearly define your ability to change an employee’s location, hours, or status. By defining your rights, you establish procedures to fall back on in the event an employee claims constructive dismissal and looks to file a lawsuit. Chemistry in the workplace promotes productivity. You don’t want any employees suffering from a form of presenteeism, where an individual is on the job, but conflict with co-workers significantly interferes with the ability to perform duties. The handbook must outline the consequences for bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace, behavior that must be addressed and eliminated. Without these printed rules in place, you have no means of enforcing the ethical standards that exist to foster a safe, efficient environment. In a small organization, you probably don’t want 75% of your employees on vacation during the second week of July. Adopting a policy around time off and recording it in the handbook keeps all employees on the same page. Whether it is a first-come, first-serve approach or something else, including these rules in your handbook should diffuse any arguments involving how to put in for personal days or sick time.

When to Distribute and Update

After devoting considerable resources creating and printing your handbook, don’t let it sit in a closet somewhere. Many companies use an intranet site or email to distribute the guide to employees. Along with other new hire paperwork, distribute the handbook on an employee’s first day of work. Allow for a mini orientation period and ask that person to read and review the book, encouraging questions or feedback. As your policies change, be sure to notify the workforce that an amended document is available in print or online. You may not be an HR professional, but you will face HR conundrums. As your business grows, merely spending some time and effort on an employee handbook may not make you an expert, but that pursuit will lay a solid foundation for employee behavior and performance.

References & Resources

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