Employee handbooks are great for laying out your small business’ policies, employee expectations, and they can be particularly helpful if (for some reason) your business is ever sued. The most important thing is that these handbooks will clearly communicate your expectations and rules by which employees will be governed. Below are some tips for putting together an employee handbook for your small business.
What should you include in your employee handbook?
There are certain essential topics that all employee handbooks should cover. Here are some of the essential topics that we recommend you include in your employee handbook:
Company overview: By stating your overall philosophy and vision for the company will set the tone for the entire handbook. You can also make clear what your brand reputation is, which is help guide your employees’ “brand-building” activities.
Pay: This tends to be one of the more heavily litigated area of small business, employee pay rates and structures. It’s important that you clearly spell out how you pay your employees, e.g. hourly or salaried. You should also note how you determine pay rates and how you determine raises, e.g. at every 6-month review.
Hours: In addition to explaining the normal operating hours for your business, you should detail what you expect of your employees, e.g. to arrive 15 minutes before the business opens. Also, explain clearly the number of hours you expect for your employees, including how you handle overtime hours (if you allow this).
Employee Benefits: Will you offer your employees benefits? You should explain the benefits that you will offer and how employees can qualify for them.
Professionalism: You’re probably thinking: this should be standard in any business and I shouldn’t need to spell this out, right? It’s like including a provision in a contract that details the quality of your work you provide, it adds clarity and explains exactly what you expect from your employee. Tell your employees that you expect them to treat their coworkers and customers with respect and civility, and that you expect them to always behave in a professional manner that reflects well on your business. Make it clear that they represent your business and its brand.
Workplace Harassment: Remind your employees that workplace harassment is both illegal and will not be tolerated. Explain how employees should report harassment they either experience or hear about. Also, let your employees know that any such report will be kept confidential, taken seriously, thoroughly investigated and dealt with appropriately.
Drug and Smoking policies: Set forth your policy for drugs, alcohol and smoking in and around the workplace. Explain how violations of your drug policy will be dealt with. Smoke break policies (or breaks in general) must comply with state and local laws, so make sure to check that you comply with your local laws. For example, in Washington you are prohibited from smoking within 25 feet of a building entrance. Therefore, if you choose to allow smoke breaks, you should clearly spell out where and when those breaks can be taken.
Complaints: Clearly outline how an employee can file a complaint, who they should talk to, and what the steps are for resolving the issue(s). Make it clear to your employees that they won’t be retaliated against for filing a complaint.
Discipline: Outline what conduct will result in discipline, and what discipline will result from specific conduct. Always state that the list of conduct and options for discipline are not exhaustive, but simply serve as examples. This will leave you an “out” since its impossible to anticipate every type of conduct that should be disciplined.