Employee Handbook: The Complete Guide in 2021

Expert Tips
Rea Regan July 7, 2021 10 min read
Employee Handbook: The Complete Guide in 2021

Quick Guide

    It’s no secret that an employee’s first day at a new job can be an overwhelming experience, and not just for the new hire but for managers too. You are teaching someone a new role and are transitioning them into the company culture and work environment. It can be a lot to take on.

    So make sure your on-boarding preparation can relieve those first day jitters into excitement instead. How is this possible? With the perfect employee handbook of course!

    Often having an employee handbook isn’t something most businesses think about until there’s a pressing need. Whether you’re attempting to address an office culture issue or interested in building one as a foundational element, crafting an employee handbook requires preparation and thoughtfulness.

    What is an Employee Handbook?

    It is documentation that helps to prepare the new hire for their new job and respective responsibilities but it also helps to get them comfortable and feel welcome at your business.

    The Benefits of a Great Employee Handbook infographic
    https://visual.ly/community/infographic/business/benefits-great-employee-handbook

    What Should Be Included in an Employee Handbook?

    Well to answer that fully, it is important to understand that an employee handbook needs to be kept up to date and should be accessible at any time. Most handbooks include the following:

    It’s important to remember in 2021, there is little need to have a physical employee handbook. Many companies have already turned to a digital solution, such as Connecteam. Connecteam provides the ability to onboard employees straight from the app – so that your employees always have the most updated version, it’s accessible at any time and it’s super easy to use and navigate. With Connecteam, you can always be sure that your employees have the tools they need to work productively and efficiently.  

    With that being said, there is no need to look all this up on your own, we created an easy and efficient employee handbook template so you can build the best employee handbook for your business.

    The Complete Guide for Your Employee Handbook in 2021

    Employee Handbook Basics

    Introduction and welcome statement.

    Describe your company’s history, from the day you were founded, by whom, and why. Add your company’s mission statement and company culture. Make sure you talk about why your company matters, and why your new hire should be excited now that they are a part of it.

    A hierarchy chart.

    This clearly maps out who’s who, starting from the top to the very bottom. If you can include pictures, that will help put a face to the name as new hires can be overwhelmed with all the new faces they meet! 

    Employment contract types.

    Define the following: full-time and part-time employees, and don’t forget about interns, apprentices, seasonal staff and other workers that your company employs.

    Equal opportunity employment.

    This is a must, and not just for legal purposes but in order to create a company culture of meritocracy and respect.

    Recruitment and selection process.

    Have a section that explains your company’s hiring process, and if you do pre-employment checks, clearly explain how hiring managers can order these checks and how to handle them. Additionally, if you have referral rewards, this is where you can outline the procedure and related guidelines.

    Attendance.

    Clearly explain what is required for attendance: from the basics, like what employees need to do when they can’t come into work or in what circumstances you may excuse an unreported absence.

    Download our free employee attendance policy template to get started

    Workplace Policies

    Confidentiality and data protection.

    Account for any and all laws that apply to your company. Mention what the laws are and how you ensure you adhere to them, plus what you expect employees to do in these cases.

    Download our free employee confidentiality template to get started

    Harassment and violence.

    It’s known that respect to and from coworkers is key to creating harmony in the workplace so be sure to state your commitment to eliminating harassment and violence in the workplace. Outline what is considered harassment and possible repercussions if one violates such rules.

    Workplace safety and health.

    Let employees know what the guidelines are to create a healthy and safe workplace. Talk about how your company complies with occupational health and safety laws, and how you protect employees in hazardous jobs or from emergencies.

    Mobile first employee safety and health

    Code of Conduct

    Dress code.

    Clearly explain what the dress code is, even if you don’t have one. Employees need to know what they can and can’t wear. Be as clear as possible, like what is the business casual dress code for your company?

    Download our free dress code policy template

    Cyber security and digital devices.

    This relates to internet usage, company cell phones, corporate email and social media use (corporate and personal). Establish clear guidelines that allow for some freedom for employees, as long as they follow security and data protection guidelines.

    Conflict of interest.

    Be clear on what constitutes a conflict of interest, what employees can do if faced with one, and what consequences will occur if one breaks relevant laws or company rules.

    Employee relationships and fraternization.

    While employees of course can become friends or even date, be sure to include some rules so you can avoid gossip or an unprofessional scene.

    Employment of relatives.

    It is important that you avoid accusations of nepotism and favoritism. Clearly map out specific guidelines about what working relationships are allowed between relatives in your company.

    Workplace visitors.

    Outline the process for when employees want to bring visitors on the company premises, as you want to keep everyone professional, alert and responsible.

    Solicitation and distribution.

    Mention attempts made by outsiders or employees in order to solicit or distribute flyers, products or services and talk about how employees can handle these cases.

    Compensation

    Compensation status and payroll.

    While this part is mainly for U.S. companies, which have laws on exempt and non-exempt employees, it is still important to know if it relates to you as well. Explain the legal framework and clarify the overtime rules. Let employees know on what day they will receive their salary or wages.

    Performance management.

    Make sure your employees understand how their performance will be evaluated, and prepare managers for managerial duties. Talk about the objectives of performance reviews and how you expect managers to lead their team.

    Employee training and development.

    This is how you can showcase your plans of employee retention, so that your employees can always improve personally and professionally. If there are any training opportunities and education budgets, talk about it here.

    employee training app feedback

    Benefits

    Employee health.

    Mention if you include private health insurance, gym membership, wellness programs, etc. Talk about relevant laws, such as FMLA and COBRA.

    Workers’ compensation.

    Outline what the process is for employees if they are injured at work and what benefits you offer.

    Work from home.

    This is a popular benefit so explain how your employees can ask for remote work and what rules they need to follow (like, cyber security at home). Plus, establish rules for those who are  permanent remote workers.

    Employee expenses.

    List what work-related expenses you will cover and what the process is to claim reimbursement.

    Company car.

    If you offer company cars, let employees know how you expect them to behave when using the company car and what expenses you will cover, such as gas, car cleaning and tolls.

    Download our free company car policy template

    Parking.

    If you have free parking, let employees know how they need to manage their allocated space. If there are a limited number of parking spaces, list the criteria you will use to allocate these spaces.

    Company-issued equipment.

    If you give equipment to employees (such as phones, laptops etc.), inform employees how they should take care of it. Let them know what to do if that equipment is stolen or damaged.

    Working Hours, PTO and Vacation

    Working hours and Paid time off (PTO).

    Establish what your company-wide working hours are and what expectations you have. Explain  the number of paid days off and what the process to request PTO is.

    Holidays.

    List all the holidays your company observes and let employees know how you will compensate them if they need to work on these days.

    Sick leave.

    Explain what the law obliges you to offer employees here and include any extra sick leave benefits you offer. Define what the definitions of short-term and long-term illness are.

    Bereavement leave.

    Offer days (the total amount is up to you) of bereavement leave to employees who lose a loved one — this is more of a compassionate perk that helps create trust with employees.

    Jury duty and voting.

    Describe what the law is for those who need to leave for civic duties and what documents they need to bring.

    Parental leave.

    This refers to paternity and maternity leave mandated by the law or is company-sponsored for employees who have or adopt a baby. Mention benefits regarding parental allowances, such as leaving early to attend school meetings.

    employee communications app

    Employee Resignation and Termination

    Progressive discipline.

    Outline the steps of your progressive discipline process and how you expect the managers to handle it.

    Resignation.

    If an employee resigns, they should know what their notice period is and what the resignation process includes.

    Termination.

    Specify applicable laws and your own internal process when terminating employees. List the conditions of providing severance pay and how you will compensate for any remaining vacation and sick leave.

    Download our free employee termination letter template

    References.

    State how, or if, you will give references to employees who resigned or were terminated.

    Signature page

    Wrap up the employee handbook with a signature page so that you can confirm the new hire received the handbook, and it acts as an incentive for each employee to read through it all before signing. Additionally, if you find yourself dealing with a wrongful termination lawsuit, it can help with your defense.

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    Summing Up Employee Handbook Guidelines

    There are several key topics you must include in your business’s employee handbook. First, the basics. Make employees feel comfortable with an introduction and welcome statement. Include a hierarchy chart so that employees can easily contact or get in touch with other employees. Create different contract types for full-time, part-time employees, interns and so on. Make sure employees are aware that you offer equal opportunity employment for every candidate. In addition, explain to new employees how the recruitment and selection process goes and what is expected of them in terms of attendance. 

    Make sure all employees are up to date and aware of workplace policies such as confidentiality, harassment and workplace safety and health. Furthermore, create a clear and thorough code of conduct that addresses certain aspects of workplace conduct. For example, company dress code, cyber security and digital devices in the workplace, conflicts of interest, employee relationships, employing relatives and workplace visitors. 

    Ensure that your employees are aware of the compensation and benefits your company offers. For instance, your employee health benefits, workers compensation, work from home benefits, employee expenses, company car and parking. You must also include how you set your company’s policies on working hours, PTO, holidays, sick leave and bereavement leave. Employee resignation and termination is another topic that must be included in your company handbook. 

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