How to Write Your Business’s Employee Handbook and Procedures Manual
Even if your business has only a handful of employees, keeping your basic policies and procedures well documented through an employee handbook and procedures manual is always a good practice. Whatever effort may be required to get basic company information in print or on your intranet can save you time and headaches down the road.
The following list gives advice for creating an employee handbook and separate procedures manual:
Separate company policies from job-specific procedures. Your employee handbook should consist of policies that apply to everyone in the company (general hours, payroll, vacation time, and so on). Set forth in a separate manual or other format those procedures that relate specifically to how people do their individual jobs.
Keep it simple. Employee manuals don’t need to be literary works, but they do need to be clear and concise. Use plain English and try to avoid overly formal, bureaucratic wording and phrasing. You may want to consider hiring a professional writer to polish your final draft.
Pay attention to legalities. Here’s some scary news: Anything that you put in writing about your company’s policies or procedures automatically becomes a legal document. Numerous cases have occurred in which discharged employees received large settlements because they proved in court that either they were following procedures published in the company handbook or the company itself didn’t comply with these procedures.
Also, some laws require that if a company has a handbook or manual of policies, certain policies — with certain key elements addressed — must be included (for example, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act).
Play things safe. Make sure that a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer reviews the employee handbook and any procedures manuals before you publish them — and then ensure that your company’s day-to-day practices match its written policies and procedures.
Control the distribution. Every employee who receives an employee handbook should sign a document that acknowledges her receipt of the handbook and that she has read and understands its contents.
In the document, she also should attest that she is required to work under its policies and that she knows the handbook is not a contract of employment in any way. The document the employee signs should include that the company, in its discretion, may change its policies in the future from time to time — and such changes will apply to her.
Put the signed form in the worker’s employee profile. You may need it in the event of a disciplinary proceeding or lawsuit.
You don’t want the manual to circulate outside the company — and the manual needs to contain a clear statement to this effect. You may want to require your employees to turn in their handbooks before leaving the company, especially if it details your operational procedures, contains trade secrets, or includes confidential or proprietary information.