Employee Handbook Best Practices In 2024 (2024)

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Regardless of your industry, business size or number of employees, an employee handbook is a useful resource and communication tool for both employers and employees. Creating the employee handbook can be an overwhelming and daunting task, however. In this article, we provide information on the benefits of an employee handbook, what to include in an employee handbook and how often to review and update an employee handbook.

What Is an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook can not only provide details about specific procedures and guidelines, but it can also codify your company’s values, history and mission. It can include HR forms, policies (employer standards and guidelines), information about company programs (such as sick leave and paid time off) and procedures to be followed in certain situations (such as seeking reimbursem*nt for travel expenses).

The employee handbook should provide an easy-to-understand description of each policy, program or procedure. If more detail is required for a specific policy, program or procedure, you may want to consider creating a separate, stand-alone document with a summary of it in the employee handbook, along with information on where an employee can find more information on the policy.

An employee handbook is not an employment agreement, and as such, it should include a brief statement confirming that the handbook does not create an employment contract. The employee handbook should not use legal jargon, but instead should be written so it is easily understandable for employees.

This document is not intended to be overly rigid or static. Rather, the employee handbook is a living document that should be amended and updated as necessary.

Benefits of an Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks provide a variety of benefits both to the employer and to the employees.

Sets Clear Expectations

An employee handbook sets clear expectations for employees and company management. When difficult questions arise about whether something can or cannot be done, management can refer to the employee handbook for clarity. Additionally, employees will know what is expected of them, thereby reducing the risk of confusion or disciplinary actions later on.

Reduces Uncertainty

When an employee handbook sets clear standards and procedures for a wide range of scenarios, you can minimize the guesswork involved in managing your staff. For instance, if your business has a carefully crafted travel policy, you can avoid questions regarding limits on airfare that is reimbursed. If you have a professional development policy, you can take the heat off a manager to make decisions about whether an employee should be allowed to attend an expensive conference.

Welcomes New Employees and Affirms Company Values

The employee handbook is an opportunity to welcome new employees, provide information about the company and affirm company values. In addition to policies and procedures that impact the workplace regularly, the employee handbook can also include the company mission, vision and values.

What To Include in an Employee Handbook

An employee handbook should have several sections so that a wide breadth of information can be offered.

Company Mission, Vision and Values

Although it’s not necessary, the employee handbook is an ideal place to communicate the company’s mission, vision and values to employees. You may also want to consider including a letter from the CEO or company leadership that reminds employees of their critical role in the company.

Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy

Depending on where your company is located, there may be legal requirements that impact what to include in the anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy. Additionally, some jurisdictions require companies to have an anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy. You may want to have an attorney review your anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy to ensure that you are complying with applicable laws and regulations.

Code of Conduct

The code of conduct is essentially a summary of the expectations for employee behavior while on the job. For instance, the code of conduct may include policies regarding attendance, tardiness, cell phone use and telecommuting. The code of conduct sets clear expectations for employees and management so there are no surprises. In some cases, a code of conduct may also provide a legal defense if an employee alleges that the employer used unfair disciplinary action.

Dress Code

If there is a company dress code, such as a uniform or dress-down Fridays, this should be included in the handbook so all employees understand the wardrobe expectations at all times.

Communications Policy

Given the prevalence of cell phone use and social media, employers should consider including a communications policy in the employee handbook. A communication policy can include information about what is allowed and not allowed regarding company-owned cell phones, computers and devices while on the job, such as social media postings, personal calls or matters and communications with the media.

Compensation and Benefits Information

The employee handbook can be a useful tool to remind employees of benefits that are available to them, as well as any policies and procedures that impact compensation. For instance, if your company provides parental leave beyond what is required by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you should include it in the employee handbook. Similarly, if your remote workplace offers a stipend for computer expenses, you would also want to include this information in the handbook so employees are aware of the benefit and its parameters.

This section should also discuss paid holidays, sick leave, overtime, timekeeping, paid vacation as well the at-will nature of the employment.

Reviews, Promotions and Raises

Information about annual reviews and what the requirements are for raises and promotions should be discussed. Introduce your employees to your performance management system here, if applicable.

PIP Plans

Details about performance improvement plans (PIPs) and procedures for failure to meet performance goals should be provided.

New Hire and Separation Procedures

Issues often arise when an employee quits, is laid off or is fired. A clear policy regarding offboarding procedures can be incredibly helpful in avoiding disputes or confusion. Similarly, the employee handbook can also be an important part of the new employee onboarding process by informing employees of when and how often they are paid (weekly, biweekly, monthly), whether there is a waiting period before benefits start and any relevant standards for promotion.

Procedures for Complaints

The handbook should discuss how employees can make complaints about personnel or job conditions and where to direct them—likely to your human resources department or representative.

Employee Acknowledgment

This is a short statement that is signed by the employee, acknowledging that they have received, reviewed and agree to comply with the policies and procedures outlined in the employee handbook. The acknowledgment should be saved in the employee’s personnel file along with other new hire forms.

Review the Employee Handbook Regularly and Update It As Necessary

Company management should review the employee handbook regularly to ensure that the policies and procedures are being followed and align with company practices. The employee handbook should be updated as necessary, with updates promptly communicated to employees.

Employee Handbook Tips

1. Keep the tone positive, professional and understandable.
2. Avoid legal jargon or confusing terminology.
3. Keep a copy of the employee handbook readily available to all employees.
4. Retain employee acknowledgments in their personnel files.
5. Include contact information for the company representative available to answer questions.
6. Promptly communicate updates to employees.

Bottom Line

A well-drafted employee handbook should be professional and informative, avoid legal jargon and support the company’s culture and values.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often should an employee handbook be reviewed and updated?

There is no set time frame on how frequently an employee handbook should be reviewed and updated, but an employer may want to establish an internal review standard, such as every two years. Additionally, the employee handbook should be reviewed and updated any time there is a change in the law that impacts the policies and procedures in the employee handbook.

Do employees need a printed copy of the employee handbook?

While employees don’t necessarily need a printed copy of the employee handbook (especially in remote workplaces), all employees should have access to the handbook, whether printed or digital. Employees should also know where the master copy of the employee handbook lives, and it should be accessible to all employees upon demand.

Employee Handbook Best Practices In 2024 (2024)
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