What makes a great employee handbook?

An employee handbook, also known as an employee manual, company policy manual or staff handbook, is literature – typically provided in book, leaflet or eBook form – given to all employees by an employer. It aims to inform each member of staff of the company’s specific mission, as well as its policies and values. A good employee handbook also works as a safeguard for your company, helping to prevent potential legal issues from arising in the future. Before anyone starts working for your company, an employee handbook should be in place containing everything they might need to know.

Here’s everything you need to know about what makes a great employee handbook.

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is a detailed guide for all members of staff that sets out the company’s policies and procedures in detail. In an employee handbook, companies will typically include important information such as the equal opportunities employment policy, workplace harassment policy, data handling policy, holiday entitlement and any key legal issues. It should also cover other key company information such as the sickness policy and entitlements, disciplinary/dismissal procedure and grievance procedures, family friendly policies, IT policies and details around pension schemes.

New members of staff should be issued with a copy of the employee handbook on their first day as part of their induction. A representative of the company can then ensure that the new employee reads the handbook and understands everything in it. It is particularly important that the handbook is provided on the first day if it contains company-specific employment particulars.

Although an employee handbook is primarily used for displaying important information, a good company handbook will also include factors that are bespoke to the individual company such as history, culture, vision, core values and the benefits in place for employees.

An employer talking their new employee through the company’s handbook

Are employers required to provide an employee handbook?

Employers must provide employees with a statement of various contractual terms. If the employer prefers, some of these can be included in the handbook rather than the statement/contract – namely sick pay policy/entitlement, the rights to any paid leave other than annual leave and the right to any training provided by the employer. Therefore, if the employer is using the handbook for this information, they must provide it by the first day of employment.

Other than this, business owners aren’t required by law to provide their workforce with an employee handbook, but as it can benefit both them and their workers, it’s no surprise that the majority of businesses choose to issue each member of staff with one.

When formed of the correct components and constructed in an appropriate manner, an employee handbook can be a helpful and reliable source for any issues with your workforce. For example, if there was a disagreement between employees, the handbook could help to establish how to move forward with finding a way to resolve the matter. Similarly, if any claims were made against you or about the way employees had been treated in a number of situations, the handbook should be able to outline their relevant rights and the rights of you as the employer. In essence, an employee handbook is a set of rules that can help to guide and protect you and your workforce, working as a more descriptive and informative part of each employee’s contract.

What to include in an employee handbook?

The length of the employee handbook is dependent on what you want to include in it, but it’s important to include all relevant details to enhance its usefulness for everyone within the company.

Sections you should consider including in your employee handbook are:

General enrolment information

New members of your workforce will expect to see information on working for the company and policies surrounding their employment. It could also include any company guidance that may help such as methods of travelling to the office, how departments are structured and general contact information with senior members of staff.

Working parameters

Another section that would be beneficial to employees is general information about what’s expected of them. This would outline details such as absence and attendance, use of company equipment, processes and programs, designated times for lunch and breaks, and the policy around working from home. Considerations regarding health and safety, such as first aid procedure in the workplace and the location of fire escapes and fire extinguishers, should also be included or could be included in a separate health and safety handbook.

Payroll and finances

Employees will be made aware of their salary and the duties of the role within their contract. However, the employee handbook can offer more details over how payroll works, when payday occurs, how the employee will be taxed and information on how to enrol on the company’s pension scheme. Other financial considerations such as expenses, potential bonuses and promotions may also be included.

Code of conduct

Alongside the company’s own morals, ethics, history and long-term vision, the handbook is an ideal opportunity to also set out its rules and regulations. This would usually include policies such as the dress code, disciplinary procedure, anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policy, employee rights and any other related policies in place.

Benefits

As a final point in the employee handbook, company benefits offer an encouraging touch that completes the new employee’s reading in a positive way. This could include the perks of working at the company such as flexible working hours, employee referral schemes, team building activities, breakout spaces with entertainment facilities and even things as simple as the promise of tea and coffee making facilities.

What you choose to include in the handbook of your own company will depend on the type of business you have and personal preference. Striking a balance between serious matters that need to be included and additional perks that will engage employees is crucial to an effective handbook, but how you choose to do that is up to you.

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