Are you and your employees on the same page when it comes to company policies?
Can you help your employees easily access information about things like benefits or performance appraisals?
Do you have documentation that ensures that your team knows their rights and obligations at work (while protecting yourself in the event that you are sued by an employee)?
If you have a staff handbook, the answer to all these questions is “yes”;.
What is an employee handbook?
A personnel handbook is the written documentation of how your company works. See it as your handbook for employees. It contains important information ranging from corporate culture to mandatory legal policies and more. With this guide, your employees can understand all the details of how your company works – along with what is expected of them and what they are entitled to as members of your team.
It is a critical document for all small businesses. So if you do not have a staff handbook, or if yours is regrettably out of date, make a commitment to produce one ASAP.
How to create your employee handbook
Now that you know Why you need a staff handbook, your next step is to decide how you’re going to create it – and What you should include.
The Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) recommends nine steps you should take to develop your own handbook for employees. But do not create your manual in a vacuum. Always include your human resources department (if you have one) and seek advice specific to your business from your legal counsel. Your personnel handbook is an important document for your company, so it is important to be careful.
If you do not think you have the right resources in place, Erie Insurance customers can always ask your ERIE agent to put you in touch with our Risk Control Services team, who can help you point in the right direction.
Step 1: Take an inventory of your current company policies.
Corporate policies – the sets of guidelines or rules that determine specific actions in your organization – will be the backbone of your employee handbook. Review the ones you already have and make any necessary updates.
Then take a look around and identify common routines that occur regularly at your workplace (eg dress codes, request vacations, etc.). If you do not have a policy for these procedures or methods, you must write one.
Indeed.com provides some general policy recommendations that you should include, such as:
- Employee behavior: This can range from your code of conduct to anything else that informs about how you expect employees to act when they represent your company. You can also include a special section on professionalism, which covers topics such as dress code, conflicts of interest and your policy on smoking and drugs and alcohol.
- Employment relationship: This will help illustrate the relationship between the employer and the employees, and include policies such as non-compete clauses and confidentiality agreements.
- General employment information: Here you want to include information about the daily activities of your company. This information should include a policy on equal opportunities, information on housing and policies for harassment and discrimination.
- Presence: This section should include information about things like working hours and overtime, breaks, what to do in adverse weather conditions, and telecommuting guidelines.
- Remuneration and benefits: This provides general information about what is available to all employees working at your company, from health insurance to bonuses to pension benefits and so on.
- Leave: Include information about paid leave and paid vacation, as well as sick leave, mourning leave, information about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), attendance policy and more. Make sure you also communicate the proper process that employees must follow when requesting leave.
- Acceptable use: Here you need to define the employees’ expectations when it comes to their use of the company’s property. This includes your guidelines on phones and cell phones, computers and business equipment. And in our digital world, you should also include information about your social media usage policies.
- Personnel monitoring: Inform your employees about how their actions are monitored during the day. For example, do business-owned computers include monitoring software?
- Performance expectations: Include your policies regarding professional development and performance evaluations. You must also include information about your routines when an employee violates any of your corporate policies. This can involve disciplinary action, conflict resolution, reasons for immediate termination and more.
- Exit policies: Be prepared for when your employees quit. Has information about exit interviews, retirement, dismissal and other related topics.
Talk to your legal advisor and / or advisory team specific to your business. Reliable experts can help you decide what you need to include, especially when it comes to the policies required by federal, state and local mandates.
Step 2: Make an outline.
Put together a summary of how you want your staff handbook to be structured along with the list of topics that need to be included (hint: you identified them in step 1). This way, you can make sure you do not miss anything before you start writing.
You should always have some form of introduction, an overview of your company and your assignment, which is helpful for new employees. A statement on equal opportunities, contractual waiver and declaration of employment (where permitted) should also be included.
Make sure you include all the information that is legally required in your handbook, such as the FMLA, COBRA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Anti-Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Legal advisors can provide advice that is unique to your business for what you need to include.
Step 3: Create summary statements for each policy and procedure.
Write short summaries of all the policies and procedures you identified in steps 1 and 2. Make sure they are easy to read. After all, if they are difficult for you to understand as a writer, it will be even harder for your employees to understand.
Step 4: Write your manual
Insert your summary statements in the appropriate sections of your outline.
Step 5: Review your work.
Once you have put together your manual, take the time to go through everything carefully to ensure that it is accurate and easy to understand. Check that nothing is missing or needs updating. It can also help to send it to another team member or project team if you work with it as a group.
Step 6: Submit it for legal review.
Your legal adviser should always review your work to ensure that it contains the correct information and does not make any kind of contractual statements or agreements.
Step 7: Decide how to publish your manual.
After legal advice has given your personnel handbook its approval stamp, find a provider who can help you format and publish it. This applies regardless of whether you choose to create a digital or printed copy of your guide (see more information in step 8).
Keep in mind that this can be an extra cost, so make sure you get quotes from a few vendors to determine who you like best – and what you can afford. Always make sure that you review one final copy of your manual before publishing the final version.
Step 8: Distribute it.
You have published your manual – congratulations! Now you need to deliver it to your employees and find a way to work with it in the introductory process for your new employee. If you have a place to publish your manual digitally – for example a company intranet or a shared cloud server – by all means do it! However, you will need paper copies for employees who do not have access to a computer or the Internet. Some employees may just prefer to have a hard copy on hand, so make sure you can receive them.
When you distribute your personnel manual, you must receive signatures from your staff that they have received a copy and read it. Save these forms in each of your employees’ individual personnel files.
Step 9: Revisit – and revise – if necessary.
An employee handbook is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. You should see it as a living document that breathes. Because as employment laws or company policies change, so will your handbook. Make a schedule to ensure that you review it consistently – whether it is every two years, annually or twice a year. This will ensure that the information is current, appropriate and legally sound.
Take the right steps to reduce the risks
As a business owner, you expect your insurance to be there when things go wrong. But what if your insurance company was also there to help you take risks to reduce the risks in the first place?
When you have a business policy through Erie Insurance, you have access to a variety of resources, including Risk Control Services and the help of a risk control consultant. They can help you evaluate the potential risks your business is facing and then recommend steps you can take to reduce them.
This is just another way that ERIE offers business owners good protection and service. To learn more about how ERIE’s risk management services can help your business, contact a local Erie Insurance agent in your community.