Employee handbook

The employee handbook is basically a mix of your company’s policies, procedures, main employment conditions, and expected workplace behavior.

In this article, we will cover how to create the perfect employee handbook that will serve both you, as the employer and your employees. Regardless of the size of your business, the employee handbook is a fundamental document.

 

What is an employee handbook?

The employee handbook is a booklet that comprises your company's mission, culture, practices, policies, and expectations. This essential document protects you as the employer from possible litigation and it's also convenient for your employees, because it spells out all your policies positively. If you are terrified by creating it for your company, we offer you a sample which will make your job extremely easy.

If you are onboarding a new hire and you want an employee manual where the existing staff can refer to you can start with our free to use one.

Note: The employee handbook is also referred as the employee manual, staff handbook, or company policy manual.


What is the purpose of having an Employee Handbook?

The purpose of an employee handbook is to have a guide for the employee around culture, policy, practices and principles. It's also a great way to explain set the company tone and describe basic work information to new hires. Find below why the handbook is useful not only for the employees but also for employers.

Useful for the employer?

Certainly. By clearly presenting the set of procedures, working conditions and the behavior you expect from your employees, you will place yourself in a save position. The employee has been informed, so there is no ”I had no idea”. You will also create an environment of confidence and transparency. Another important aspect for the employer is setting the progressive Discipline Policy, highlighting the forbidden behaviors and their repercussions, therefore reducing the risk of litigation.

Useful for the employees?

Definitely. They will always be informed about what is expected of them, in terms of work-etiquette and discipline and they will be in touch with the benefits and compensation they are entitled to. Last, but not least, you want them to know exactly what is your company’s vision and values.

What to include in an employee handbook?

The employee handbook can become rather dense, but there are a few points that should not be left out:

  1. The company purpose — A short introduction regarding the company’s mission, vision, and culture.
  2. Anti-discrimination policy — It is necessary in order to be compliant with the law and reassure the employees about the kind of employer you are.
  3. General information regarding employment —For example, here is where you make clear the meaning of probationary period.
  4. Employment at will — Stipulating that either the employee or the employer is free to terminate the employment contract at any time, regardless of the reason.
  5. Policy for promotion or transfers to a certain position.
  1. Summary of compensation and benefits — This is the section where you inform the employees about how they are paid and what types of benefits are they entitled to health assistance, retirement benefits or other perks you find suitable.
  2. Leave policy — Here you have all kinds of leave — paid, unpaid, sick leave, parental leave or national holidays. If you want to simplify all processes regarding these, always remember that LeaveBoard is the perfect tool! You can automate your HR Management with the time off solution that your employees will enjoy.
  3. Policies for progressive discipline — The employer needs to state his expectations in terms of discipline and the consequences in case prohibited behaviors arise.

Employee handbook best practices

In order to be accessible to the staff and also effective for the company, the handbook should meet some requirements:

  • It’s developed by the HR department and reviewed by a legal specialist. The HR staff is the most familiar with all the policies and afterward, an employment law specialist has to revise it.
  • It’s included it in the induction of every new hire and get their signature as an acknowledgment.
  • Must be updated periodically: over time, the importance of some policies may fade away, so they need updating.
  • It’s digitally available — an online copy of the handbook should be posted on the intranet, for the employees to access it anytime.

GuideSpark found out that 43% of generation Y are not reading the majority of the employee handbook, while 11% haven’t even opened it!

7 Best employee handbook examples

You can view the employee handbook as a means of dialog between the company and your staff, so be sure to include the aspects that are critical to your work culture and work environment.

It doens't matter how you call it: the employee handbook, the culture book, the employee manual, the introduction kit, the company playbook, or the business atlas. This document is different for every company.

It reflects company’s mission, policies and expectations in regards to new employees. Take a look at some cool staff handbook examples: Valve, Netflix & Hubspot, Trello, Zara, Dansk Supermarket Group, Facebook or McDonald's.

Note: The employee handbook can be shared durring the job orientation or when you welcome a new employee. Nevertheless you will find it as one of the elements with the onboarding checklist.

Neflix Employee Handbook

Trello Employee Handbook



Nordstrom Employee Handbook

Dansk Employee Handbook

Valve Employee Handbook

How to use this book?
This book isn’t about fringe benefits or how to set up your workstation or where to find source code. Valve works in ways that might seem counterintuitive at first. This handbook is about the choices you’re going to be making and how to think about them. Mainly, it’s about how not to freak out now that you’re here.
Valve: Handbook for new employees

Hubspot Employee Handbook

Austin Fraser Employee Handbook

Facebook Employee Handbook

Fast is better than slow. While slow is adding unnecessary embellishments, fast is out in the world. And that means fast can learn from experience while slow can only theorize. Those who ship quickly can improve quickly. So fast doesn’t just win the race. It gets a head start for the next one.
Facebook was not originally created to be a company

EF Employee Handbook

We’re glad to have you at McDonald’s. As with any successful business, the success of the whole depends on each member doing his or her part. Every employee is important. Since our success depends on each person, it’s our goal that we grow together. The key element to growth is communication. Without it an atmosphere of misunderstanding, distrusts, and low productivity prevails which in the end affects the most important person in our stores – the customer.
McDonald’s Company Handbook

We got inspired by the best. You can do it, too. There are many other out there for you to discover.

Employee handbook template

Our free template is ready for you to download and you will only need to replace the words in brackets with your company's ground rules. Within the chapters of the 12 pages sample please feel free to customize it any other way to match your organization and your staff's needs and expectations. Instant download, no email required.


Download now the employee handbook word template

How to use the sample employee handbook?

After you download the free sample employee handbook, you can adjust it to your own needs. This policy manual was written to apply to a wide variety of companies from startups to medium business and in all kinds of sectors.

You will see that in the document you have several words in brackets that you need to swap with your company information. Take into consideration that this is not a legal document and it doesn't consider the legislation that applies to your business.


Note: This employee handbook is a great document to provide to provide to welcome new hires.

What does the employee handbook contain?

This sample employee handbook contains the following chapters:

1. Purpose
2. Introduction
2.1. Employment applications
2.2. Employment relationship - Employment-at-will
2.3. Changes in policy
3. Definitions of Employee Status
3.1. Types of employees
4. Employment policies
4.1. New employee orientation
4.2. Confidentiality
4.3. Prohibition of discrimination and employment equity
4.4. Probationary period for new employees
4.5. Work hours
4.6. Lunchtime
4.7. Break periods

4.8. Emergency closings
4.9. Employee personnel files
4.10. Personnel data changes
4.11. Performance review
4.12. Disciplinary action
4.13. Employment termination
4.14. Work safety
4.15. Health issues
4.16. Medical attention
4.17. Building security
4.18. Company supplies and expenditures
4.19. Expense reimbursement
4.20. Visitors in the workplace
5. Wage and Salary Policies
5.1. Wage or salary increases
5.2. Timekeeping
5.3. Overtime

5.4. Paydays
6. Code of Conduct
7. Benefits
7.1. Insurance
7.2. Simple IRA
7.3. Social Security and Medicare
7.4. Vacation
7.5. Record keeping for vacation hours
7.6. Holidays
7.7. Jury duty and military leave
8. Employee Communications
8.1. Procedure for handling complaints
8.2. Bulletin boards
8.3. Suggestion box
8.4. Staff meetings

Tips to writing the ultimate employee handbook

Before getting started, you should know there are some general guidelines to be followed when designing an employee handbook:

1
Begin with a checklist of the points (policies) you should include and stick to it.
2
Be careful with how you present the handbook: depending on the size of your business - small business, medium or large and the level of technology your employees have, you may have to choose between a printed booklet and a digitalized one. We encourage you to pick the latter since we live in an era of technology.
3
Use a straight-forward and engaging language: don't create a handbook that is similar to a business contract. It's not attractive and you need employees to read it easily and to understand it. Keep it short, adapt the tone to your employees and if possible, add a touch of humor to the content.

Acknowledgement of receipt

Don't forget that the final step you need to take in order to obtain compliance is to get every employee's signature on a document named the acknowledgment form. It's the standard practice that documents they have reviewed, understood and agreed to the terms existent in the employee handbook.

The employee handbook template we offer can be used in multiple industries. Oh, and don't neglect the acknowledgment form used for everyone's signatures. You can also download it for free right here!


Acknowledgment of receipt template

What should you do after crafting the employee handbook?

Now since you have your perfect company handbook, a good next step would be to do the following:

  1. Train your management.
    Let your managers know that the company policies are outlined in the handbook, and the questions that the employees are having can be found in it.
  2. Train the employees.
    Each staff member must understand why there are company policies put in place and have their questions answered before signing the acknowledgment form.
  3. Revisit the employee handbook.
    Trough time, you will make changes to the document. Employment laws change, company policies change, various procedures change, employee expectations change and so forth.

Note: Once the handbook gets updated with new changes, it's best to communicate this to your employees. It is not necessary that you print the new manuals every time a change is made. Our recommendation is that once changes occur, you should update your online version to reflect the changes and make sure your personnel is aware and has access to the online version of the handbook.

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Conclusion
The employee handbook is the foundation for your company policies, procedures, standards in relation to the law and ensures that they are aligned to your employees' interests and your company values and principles.

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