As a small business or a startup, creating policy and especially HR policy may seem simultaneously unnecessary and daunting. However, this might be one of the most essential documents you need to create to unify all HR documents and create a guiding document for your team (not to mention protect you from a lawsuit).
It is normal to assume that there will be conflicts and questions regarding how employees function and interact. According to a recent study, US workers spend $359 billion in paid hours in the workplace resolving such conflicts and questions due to unclear guidelines about workplace behavior.
A well-designed Employee Handbook with the right provisions can go a long way towards saving some of your time and your team's productivity in solving everyday questions and concerns about how to operate and behave at work using an employee handbook. An Employee Handbook then is an essential tool that allows you to communicate to your team how they can be their productive best working at your company.
An Employee handbook is a document that speaks directly to your team in a clear, unambiguous and straightforward manner defining workplace rules of behavior, interaction and day-to-day function that is meant to intentionally mold a workplace culture, improve inter-employee communication and establish clear expectation from them.
Here are a few important reasons why your business should have an employee handbook:
1. To Ensure Team Member Comply with Various State and Federal Laws:
Without fail, each company large or small, in every state is expected to adhere to a set of overarching laws and regulations that apply universally. An employee handbook is a great tool to communicate these to the team members. Anything from required break times an employee is entitled to, or maybe emergency medical procedures to follow, or detailed information on how to apply for and use military leave. All of the overarching laws and regulation that the universal umbrella of state and federal laws provide for can be mentioned in an employee handbook.
2. To Help Defend a Company Against Employee Lawsuits and Claims:
Employee lawsuits in our litigious society are commonplace. No matter how well an employee is performing there always remains a chance that the company will face up with a disgruntled employee in the future. It is therefore critical that before handing out an employee handbook to employees and after every update it is thoroughly vetted by an attorney specializing in workplace law. This way, all the rules and policies set forth in the employee handbook that are legally binding, are on a sound legal footing. It also sets a precedent for distributing legal claim and building a relationship between the company and the attorney that reviews that employee handbook.
In the event of a lawsuit, a thoroughly vetted and regularly enforced employee handbook is an important legal tool to thwart legal claims of unfair practices at the outset. It also helps in claiming that the company is a diligent employer that exercised “reasonable care” when dealing with the employee that has brought the suit and a signature of receipt from the employee will prove that the suing party had full knowledge of workplace rules that were equally applied on all parties.
3. To Communicate What Is Expected of a Team Member:
In order to become an effective member of a team, a new employee needs all the tools to operate efficiently. An employee handbook does all of that. A properly composed employee handbook begins with what is expected of a new team member and carries on with directions on anything from payroll, to requesting time off and reporting work when they are unable to make it in. In essence, a well-written employee handbook informs new employees on how to interact with the regular HR functions and expectations of the employee regarding safety, punctuality, reporting, and interaction with other employees. It also provides the employees’ access to the personnel when they have questions or confusion about the matters discussed in the employee handbook.
4. To Set a Team Member’s Expectation of the Company and its Leadership:
A well-honed employee handbook also informs a team member what to expect from the company and the leadership; where the company is going in its efforts and who is leading those efforts. Along with the housekeeping basics of a job such as time-keeping mechanisms and manner and time period in which employees are paid, an employee handbook also details the kind of perks the employees can enjoy such as Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and jury duty leave. The goal here is to provide consistent and unambiguous guidelines and key company policies to the employees.
5. To Showcase the Rewards offered to the Team Members:
A thorough employment handbook is also an opportunity for a company to show off all the perks it offers its employees. From 401K programs and profit-sharing programs to employee leaves, sick leave, and parental leave program, to health insurance coverage, an employee handbook can provide all the details of the perks available to company employees.
Along with the perks available to key members, it is also essential to communicate in exhaustive details all the aspects of how to qualify for, use and avoid being sanctioned for abusing certain perks. The employee handbook can set the course for an employee’s motivation to work hard and abide by the rules to progress further in their career and be a productive member of the team to enjoy the available perks as a team member.
6. To Define What Your Company Is All About:
An employee handbook is not only a set of rules of conduct for your employees; it is essentially a statement of aspirations of what you want your company to be. A good employee handbook should be the core document that introduces your company to new team members and how they can become a vital part of it. This, in turn, inspires the new team members to become more productive in a short term. The more quickly they learn how to assimilate themselves in the team the better it is for the overall performance of the company.
As an instrument, an effective employee handbook introduces the new team members with things like:
· What sets your company apart from competitors?
· How your company was founded and get to where it is today?
· Your company’s mission statement.
· What you and your team are passionate about?
· Pointers on how to quickly assimilate as a team member
7. To Provide a Helping Hand to Team Members That Need Help:
An employer is in a unique position that is required to both enforce workplace rules and one that is trusted to remedy the harm caused by those who violated such rules. Therefore, an employee handbook can also serve as an access tool for employees who have suffered a hostile work environment and need a trusted party to allay their claim before it becomes a litigated issue outside of the workplace.
It is also necessary that employees must have a support structure in the event they suffer from unusual ailments, addiction or other problems that they would rather not discuss with managers or other employees. Things such as alcohol addiction, divorce, a disability that is considered taboo, or other problems that keep an employee from performing their duties without duress need an avenue where they can be discussed without bringing attention to an employee.
In conclusion, an employee handbook is an important and necessary tool to formalize workplace procedures, inform employees of how to use available perks and procedure to go about arranging for them and a clear sense that the employer cares about them and want them to prosper and grow in the workplace.