How to Write an Employee Handbook


Companies thrive on clear communication regardless of size—that's why both large and small
businesses need an employee handbook. While an employee handbook is not a contract, it does
clarify your company's expectations. A handbook serves as an introduction to your company for
new hires. It also acts as a reference for employees who might have questions about particular
policies or procedures

Whether your company is new, has not yet written a handbook, or wants to update its current
handbook, there are several benefits to creating one. Having a go-to guide for policies, rules, and
procedures saves you time and makes it easy for team members to get a clear answer to their
questions. Learn more about what should go into a handbook.

What Is an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook is a guide to your workplace's procedures, policies, behavior
expectations, and work conditions. Though the content of a handbook can vary from company to
company, it will often include:

  • A code of conduct.
  • Dress code requirements.
  • Time in and out requirements and rules for taking breaks.
  • Vacation and sick time policies.
  • Information about Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) policies.
  • Information about Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requirements.
  • Details about logging into and accessing company systems.
  • Details about accessing personnel files.
  • Complaint or concern procedures.
  • The company's mission.
  • Explanation of processes such as payroll and performance evaluations.

Employees should receive a copy of the handbook when they start working for the company and
sign an employee handbook acknowledgment to verify that they've received and reviewed the
document. Since the handbook should be a living document and subject to updates as company
policies change, employees should receive updated copies as required.

Why Is It Important to Have an Employee Handbook?

Creating and distributing an employment manual to your team members helps clear up any
confusion about your company's goals and what it expects of its staff.

The benefits of an employee handbook are both cultural and legal. The handbook you create sets
the tone for your company. It spells out the energy and attitude you want your company to
embody while informing employees of their rights. While a handbook isn't a contract, you should
still expect employee handbook compliance. Should there be an issue with a team member at any
point, you can refer them to the handbook for clarity. If an employee attempts to sue your
company, a handbook that clearly outlines company policies and procedures can provide
supporting evidence.

A handbook can also help employees. If a team member has a concern, such as a need for ADA
accommodation or medical leave, they can look in the manual for guidance on how to proceed. If
two employees disagree or if one feels the other is harassing them, they can look in the handbook
to discover your company's stance on harassment and its process when one team member has a
concern with another.

What Should I Include in an Employee Handbook?

While no two companies will have identical handbooks, it's a good idea to ensure your employee
manual contains the following sections.

1. Company Mission Statement
The company mission statement explains your company's goals and reason for existence. Along
with including your business mission, it's worthwhile to list your company's core values in this
section. Ideally, anyone you hire will have similar values and be on board with working to help
your company achieve its mission.

2. Code of Conduct
The code of conduct section outlines what you expect from employees while they are on the
clock—and also, in some situations, while they are off the clock.
This section can describe the company's dress code if you have one. It should also outline
expectations for using phones and other devices during work hours. For example, you might
restrict the use of personal phones when employees are actively working. If your company has a
drug and alcohol policy, you can include that in this section, as well as any details about drug

3. Employment Information
The employee information section should detail whether employees are at-will or contract-based.
It will also explain the payroll procedure, such as when employees get paid and their payment
options, such as direct deposit or check-based payments.
You can also include information about benefits like health insurance and retirement plans in this
section. Include information about employees'; eligibility for benefits and how they can enroll in

4. Leave and Time Off Policies
The leave and time off policies section should outline how much vacation and other paid time off
employees receive and when those change. It should also include information on the Family and
Medical Leave Act if your company needs to offer leave. The information should detail the
procedure for requesting leave and when people are eligible for it.
5. Legal Information

The handbook should have a section detailing laws and regulations such as EEOC policies, anti-
harassment laws, and anti-discrimination laws. You can review your employee handbook with an
employment lawyer to make sure this section of the handbook complies with federal, state, and
local laws.

6. Exit Procedures
While you hope that employees will be with the company for as long as possible, they might need
to move on or leave for various reasons. Include a section in the handbook that describes the
process for leaving the company, whether an employee departs voluntarily or the company lays
them off.

7. Acknowledgment
The last section of the handbook should include a place where the employee can sign to
acknowledge receipt of the manual. It can also include disclaimers stating that the handbook is
not a contract, and that policies can change based on updated laws or company procedures.
What Shouldn't I Include in an Employee Handbook?

Your company's employee handbook should be a general guide for every team member. Since it's
not a contract for each employee, it shouldn't be overly detailed regarding termination policies or
performance reviews.

It's also a good idea not to get too detailed about benefits and time-off policies. These benefits
can vary based on an employee's role and seniority with the company. Additionally, overly
specific language in an employee handbook can be binding. Include a general overview of the
benefits available and information on where an employee can go for specific details. A lawyer
can review your employee handbook to verify that the language is clear and free of any
unintentional guarantees.

Contact Whitfield & Eddy Law

While you need an employee handbook, you do not have to write one on your own. Let Whitfield
& Eddy handle employment matters so you can focus on your business. Our attorneys will work
with you to help you create, review, and update employee handbooks.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

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