All businesses with employees can benefit from having an employee handbook. By formally writing down your policies and providing clear guidelines, you spend less time answering questions and explaining the rules and regulations of the office. You also lessen your chances of ending up in court. Some common mistakes that occur during the creation of such a handbook are as follows.
- Not having the handbook reviewed by a lawyer. There are many ways to state your policies, some of which may be vague or potentially misconstrued. Have an attorney who is well-versed in employment law review your handbook before running off copies.
- Not taking into account federal and state laws. You need to keep in mind that laws such as the Family Medical Leave Act, among others, cannot be violated or misstated in your handbook. The same holds true for violating personal rights. This is another reason to have an employment lawyer review your handbook.
- Creating the long version. While you want to cover all of the essentials, you also do not want to go into such great detail that you hand employees a 250-page volume. Employees will feel too restricted to produce quality work if they are overwhelmed by rules and regulations. For more information, see Essentials of an Employee Handbook.
- Not providing a means by which employees can complain about harassment or discrimination. These are very serious issues, and the law requires that employers provide an opportunity for employees to voice such complaints.
- Failing to read such a handbook first. It is unnecessary to try and re-create the wheel. There are plenty of employee handbooks available to read as well as templates that can be found to help you construct yours. Use other resources before attempting to write such a handbook.
- Failing to update your handbook. Reasons to update your employee handbook include new laws, new technology, and various changes in how you conduct business. Businesses are sometimes better off having no handbook than having one that is years old and outdated. Therefore, once you have an employee handbook, it is a good idea to update it at least once a year.
- Not having a disclaimer. A disclaimer prevents an employer from being boxed into a corner. Without a disclaimer, the handbook can be construed as a contract. There needs to be some room for the employer to use discretion and work within the general guidelines of the handbook. Therefore, do not make the mistake of neglecting the disclaimer.
- Not using straightforward language. If the handbook is too vague or technical and not clearly understood by employees, then it may not serve the intended purpose. Make sure everything is easy to understand and reader-friendly.
- Not tactfully introducing the handbook to current employees. The sudden introduction of an employee handbook can imply that the organization is not happy with the way in which employees are conducting themselves. This is often not the case. It is, therefore, preferable to make it clear that the handbook is just a means of clarifying procedures and policies. Also, you should be prepared to answer questions regarding the handbook.
- Failing to make sure all employees have a handbook. You should have everyone sign off that they have received the handbook.
For more information, see the Employment Regulations section and the Employment & HR Center of Allbusiness.com. For an employee handbook checklist, see the Employment Policies and Termination section of the AllBusiness.com Forms & Agreements Center.