A well-crafted employee handbook can help a company avoid lawsuits, save resources, and boost productivity.
Not just any handbook can do this: one that doesn’t fit a company’s needs can leave the company open to risks and could be just as harmful as having no handbook at all.
To make sure that your company’s employee handbook will protect the business and employees, make sure that you avoid these 8 common mistakes.
1. Using a generic handbook off of the internet – You may be able to use an online handbook as a guide to build one off of, but you can’t simply copy and paste the whole thing. You need to make sure that the policies fit your company and culture.
2. Including rules you don’t actually use – If you include rules that will never be enforced, employees may think they don’t have to follow any of the policies. Once the rules are in the handbook, make sure that they are enforced in the same way with all employees.
3. Being too broad or too specific – Policies that are too broad leave room for misinterpretation or can be difficult to enforce. Policies that are too specific don’t leave room for flexibility in certain situations. Make sure that the policies send a clear message about your expectations, but still offer some flexibility under special circumstances.
4. Not including disclaimers – Disclaimers can protect companies in case an employee isn’t working out. Disclaimers can include that employment is at-will and can be terminated at any time, or that there is a 90-day probation period for new employees. Make sure that there is also a disclaimer that allows for the company to have some flexibility when dealing with unique situations. This is especially important if the company has a graduated disciplinary policy – a first infraction could be serious enough to merit termination without going through all of the disciplinary steps.
5. Leaving out an anti-harassment policy – An anti-harassment policy is one of the most important policies to include since, depending on your company size, you may be legally required to identify and deal with harassment. Make sure to define harassment and let employees know who to go to with harassment complaints, including an alternate person in case the first go-to person is the harasser.
6. Using overly-complicated language – You want your employees to know what you mean, so write it in clear, simple language. Overly complicated language can make it hard for employees to understand or for supervisors to enforce.
7. Not having a lawyer review it – Lawyers can look at employee handbooks to make sure that they comply with all current labor laws. This will protect you in the long run.
8. Leaving out employee acknowledgement – Make sure to include a page for employees to sign to say that they have read the handbook. Once signed, that page must stay in the employee’s file. This can offer some protection in case of legal action.