Employee Handbook Do’s and Don’ts

In my many years of working with employers in the preparation of their employee handbooks (or updates), here are some of the Do’s and Don’ts that I stressed:

Do’s ♥♥♥

  • Do spend time making your handbook unique to your business/organization.
  • Do write it in a clear and readable format, and provide examples of policy application for further explanation.
  • Do place the positive material towards the front of the handbook.
  • Do include a means for employees to voice complaints and concerns as well as suggestions for workplace/process improvement.
  • To the extent possible, have one handbook to cover all of your employees. Even if you have a unionized workforce, the handbook can refer to the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) as necessary while covering the policies that apply universally (e.g. non-harassment, drug and alcohol use, non-discrimination). This approach makes it much easier to update the handbook going forward, and remain consistent in policy application where applicable.
  • Include a table of contents for ease of reference to specific policies.  In some cases, a glossary of terminology may be valuable.

Don’ts χ χ χ

  • Don’t copy another employer’s handbook and adopt it as your own. Many of the policy areas are “boilerplate” and need little customization, but many more need to be specific to the way you operate and how you deal with employee issues.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t include policies (except for “must have”  policies such as non-harassment, non-discrimination, drug and alcohol use, etc.) unless you intend to follow them as written.
  • Don’t write yourself into a corner when it comes to employee disciplinary issues. Leave yourself enough discretion to make the right decision given the circumstances.
  • Don’t write the handbook like a policy manual. The handbook should be an easy to read summary of your policies, sort of like a “Reader’s Digest” version. Refer to the full policy as needed, which can be found on your intranet or posted on your bulletin boards. The employee handbook is just that…a handbook directed to employees. Although it can serve as a handy reference for supervisors and managers, a separate policy and procedure manual is suggested for that purpose, which will further outline the procedures to be followed in dealing with employee issues.

Published by Dave Waldorf

Former Human Resource and legal professional specializing in HR compliance advisory services. Finding my new life in Arizona with my wife of 43 years and our two shelties.

One thought on “Employee Handbook Do’s and Don’ts

  1. I really like the idea that the Employee Handbook is sort of a ‘Reader’s Digest Version’ of the Policy Manual.

    It would be cool if you could share some stories about use and misuse of employee handbooks. Is there anything out there in Google world?


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