Employers of any size will benefit from a straightforward, well written employee handbook. This document clearly spells out company policies and expectations as well as provides employees with a tool of reference should questions arise.

When drafting an employee handbook, it is essential that all federal and state employment laws are adhered to and be written in simple language, rather than legalese. It should always contain an employee and manager signature line and date documenting the handbook has been carefully reviewed by the employee and any questions answered by a supervisor.

While it will take time to create the handbook (and keep it updated), there are many benefits to both employer and employee. By creating uniform expectations, it can lessen workplace strife and streamline the hiring process. The handbook documents company procedures and specific rules regarding dress code, any permitted use of personal electronic devices, non-discrimination, harassment (and how to file a complaint), compensation and benefits, company holidays, sick leave information, scheduling, etc., and consequences for violating these expectations. It may also offer a level of employer protection in the event of an employee lawsuit.

Helpful content to include in an employee handbook may include:

  • Welcome to Our Team statement
  • Company history
  • Explanation of “at-will” employment
  • Office conduct
  • Probationary period
  • Specific cell phone and social media usage rules
  • Safety policies
  • Payroll schedule/timecard completion
  • Performance reviews
  • Company benefits and enrollment
  • Exit interviews in the event of resignation or termination

Employers should review the handbook on a regular basis and make changes as needed. Additions or revisions may be necessary, and it is also important to remove any policies that are not enforced.

While it is tempting not to have an employee handbook in place when there is a small team, it is well worth the time to avoid aggravation and ensure standards for the business are being met.

Greg Smith is the director of the Eastern Oregon University Small Business Development Center located at 1607 Gekeler Lane #148 in La Grande, Oregon. You may schedule a free, confidential business advising appointment by calling 541-962-1532 or emailing eousbdc@gmail.com.

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