Is your employee handbook up to date?

An employee handbook is an important document that all employers should have, regardless of size.  It is the one document that explains your workplace policies, as well as states your organization’s culture.  Employees need to know what’s expected of them and how to handle issues that arise during their employment.  With laws constantly changing, employers must be sure to keep their handbook up to date annually so that they do not face legal action.


There are several items that should go in to your employee handbook (this list is by no means all inclusive):

 Introduction:  Include a brief company history and your mission statement or vision.

Compliance:  Clearly state that your company complies with EEOC and ADA guidelines and what an employee should do if they feel they have been discriminated against in these areas. 

Employee benefits:  Items such as your PTO policy, your company’s medical, dental, etc. plans, paid holidays and bereavement leave should be listed in your handbook.  If you offer FMLA, list this in there as well.   

Payroll:  Tell your employees when they will get paid, what dates the pay periods encompass and the workweek (for over-time purposes).  If applicable, include the normal working hours that an employee is expected to be at work, as well as any breaks or lunch periods. 

Drug and alcohol abuse:  If you have a policy regarding drug and alcohol abuse, include this so employees will know that these types of behaviors are prohibited in the workplace and what disciplinary actions will be taken if they fail to follow this policy. 

Electronic communications policy:  This includes use of the company email system, phone system, internet, social networking.  Be sure to mention that any personal use of the company’s systems are not private.

Dress code:  Let your employees know what is expected of them in regards to dress; be sure to include what it not acceptable. 

Problem resolution:  Employees need to know what procedures to follow when they have an issue. 

Employee acknowledgement:  You will want your employees to acknowledge that they have read your handbook and are expected to follow the policies contained in it.  Keep in mind that an employee’s refusal to sign the acknowledgement will not get them off the hook for disobeying the policies. 

Here are a few helpful tips:

                Be sure to include a disclaimer that states that the handbook is not a contract of employment. 

Allow for flexibility and keep things as generic as possible so that you don’t have to continually make updates.  Being somewhat general can also protect the employer from lawsuits.   

Tailor your handbook for your employees in regards to language that is clear and not difficult to interpret. 

If you have a significant number of employees who speak another language, you should consider translating the handbook into their language. 

Don’t make your handbook so long and boring that employees won’t want to read it.  Keep it professional but add a little bit of fun. 


The contents of this article should not be construed as legal advice.  You should consult your legal counsel should you have questions regarding your company handbook.