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An employee handbook is given to new employees from the employer. The handbook is used to inform employees about their job duties and expectations set by the employer.

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What is an Employee Handbook? 

An employee handbook or manual is a booklet that provides information and guidance to employees regarding their organization's history, goals, values, practices, policies, and procedures. If created properly, an employee handbook is a valuable resource for both employees and employers that clearly defines the expectations of each party. Employee handbooks may also cover other subjects such as company dress code, compensation policies, the amount of sick time or paid time off available for employees, as well as additional employee benefits.

Employee handbooks also help prevent legal disputes between employers and employees. In order to ensure that all employees have received and reviewed the employee handbook, they may be required to sign an acknowledgment form.

Moreover, an employee handbook establishes important legal protections for employers and defines the employment relationship. For example, if an employee is fired, the “at will” policy in a well-written handbook should protect the company from legal retribution.

An Employee Handbook Should Be all of the Following:

Your Company’s Constitution

  • Yes, we realize how dramatic "Company Constitution" sounds. However, it’s a fair description. Your employee handbook is your number one resource for dispute resolution, intra-employee mediation, and performance review. Human Resources will use it, employees will (or should) use it, and you will refer to it as needed when revising policy or developing your company’s infrastructure.

The Foundation of Your Workforce

  • What kinds of employees do you want working for you? Employees who perform the way you want them to, of course. The employee handbook is a handy definition of what an ideal employee is, how he or she behaves, and what standards your current employees should strive for.

Protection against Lawsuits

  • Items such as the disclaimer, the non-contract clause (stipulating that receipt of the handbook in no way guarantees employment) and the assumption of your right to change employment policies at-will, grant you the status you need to keep things running smoothly. Other policies, such as the sexual harassment policy, non-discrimination policy, and termination policy, dictate what is and isn't okay, and releases you from liability should unsavory events occur within your staff.

A Window on your Corporate Culture

  • It’s true that many employee handbooks read alike. This is because many busy entrepreneurs copy from an employee handbook sample or make lazy work of free employee handbook templates they've downloaded from the internet. Templates and samples can be very useful tools; however, when using them, take the time to customize your employee handbooks tone and provisions to suit your corporate environment. What kind of image does that give your business, anyway? Design your employee handbook keeping your ideal boss-voice in your mind. Do you want to intimidate your employees? Do you want to discipline them right off the bat? Or do you want to project a more casual, congenial image? The tone, as well as the content of your employee handbook, can say a lot about who your company is and what it values.

Employee Handbook vs Employment Contract

There are a few important distinctions between employee contracts and handbooks. First and foremost, an employment contract is legally binding while an employee handbook is not--although it should outline various company legal policies. Secondly, employee contracts are specific to each individual employee and therefore apply solely to the individual who signs one. An employee contract details the legal rights and obligations of the employee. To that extent, an employee must be consulted if an employer changes the terms of the contract.

Employee handbooks, on the other hand, detail guidelines, policies and procedures for all company employees. These include expected behaviors and practices that may not be legally binding (i.e. punctuality). Furthermore, with handbooks, employers can update the handbook as long as their revisions are sent to employees.

Who needs an Employee Handbook? 

Why do you need one? 

Handbooks give companies the opportunity to detail the expectations of all staff members in a standardized way. They also help establish the company’s standards of accountability. Additionally, they provide a platform to share the organization's culture, values, and mission with its employees, and provide a resource for employees regarding their benefits, perks, policies, and so forth.

Without a written handbook, employees may be left with an incomplete understanding of their benefits, and may therefore not fully take advantage of all you offer as a company. More seriously, an employee handbook clearly communicates expected workplace behavior and performance. Therefore, if issues arise with employee behavior or performance, a handbook makes it difficult for the employee in question to claim ignorance.

What about small startups? 

Do startups need an employee handbook to cover only a few people? We recommend any organization with more than five employees draft an employee handbook. Creating one in the early stages of the company’s development enables the founders to work out company values and policies at the ground-level and helps ensure that culture imbues future growth.

More specifically, creating a handbook allows you to sort out smaller policies, like which expenses you’ll reimburse, while those costs are still marginal.

What about family businesses?

We also recommend that family businesses create an employee handbook, even for family members. Often family operations have difficulty separating business from family. Having a written handbook should help members of a family business avoid difficult disputes over work policies that can affect relationships at home.

 

 

Legal Considerations

Legal considerations are industry and geographically specific. Different industries and states have different laws regarding written documentation of company policies. However, regardless of the industry or location, certain organization policies and procedures must be documented in writing. Those include, for example, anti-harassment policies and internal reporting policies (in California, specifically).

More Resources

See below a few additional resources and examples of employee handbooks.

In Conclusion

Employee handbooks act as a foundation for your company, laying the groundwork for all operational behavior, policies, and standards in relation to federal and state law. With the help from this article, you can not only create an original employee handbook that uniquely shares the voice of your company, but it also ensures that your employees operate and work in the most efficient way.

Methodology

Our team at FormSwift wanted to determine which states are the best and worst for employee benefits. We created a ranking by evenly weighting the following factors to come up with a final percentage for each state: per capita personal income, average employer contribution for health insurance, number of healthcare tiers available for employees with dependents, state average pension funding for public employees, and percentage of vacation time used by employees in each state.

If you are looking for our Trump PTO vs the American Worker Study, you can find the feature on PopSugar here: https://www.popsugar.com/news/Trump-Vacation-PTO-vs-American-Worker-Firefighter-Teacher-43966533

 

Download a PDF or Word Template

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