How many employees do you need to have before it matters?
One. It only takes one dissatisfied employee, or just one employee who isn’t following the expectations that should be in the employee handbook, to cause problems.
Why have an employee handbook?
Employees like to know they’re all being treated the same as all other employees. Any sign of favoritism, intended or not, can cause issues. Samantha Jo has been late every day and yet nothing is said to her, except a vague, “Do better.” Then Buddy comes in late once or twice and thinks it will be okay because Samantha Jo does it every day, but is told this could be “job affecting” if it happens again. Buddy will become resentful, and that can spiral.
Unfair treatment, which is treatment that is different for each employee or class of employee, can lead to lawsuits. No one wants that.
Even if an issue comes up that isn’t in the handbook, the general guidelines will help determine the specific action to be taken, and the manager won’t have to guess what to do each time.
If you write it down and have the employees acknowledge it, you show them you’re trying to be fair with all of them. That helps with morale, because no one wants to be guessing what is expected of them, and especially if they see others getting away with things.
Your handbook should include the following:
- State, federal, local, and union workplace laws
- At-will employment clause
- Equal employment and anti-harassment
- Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Drug-free workplace policies
- Final paycheck and unused PTO
- COBRA Notifications
- Time and attendance compliance
- General Disclaimers
- State that this handbook supersedes any other policies, which may be opinions, or random informal bits of paper.
There are many things to consider when producing your manual, so it should be reviewed by an attorney with knowledge of your state laws. It’s important to have the proper wording so the employee is aware not only of their responsibilities to the company, but of the company’s responsibilities to the employee.
It must be acknowledged and agreed to by the employee, and the acknowledgement signed by the employee should be kept in the employee file.
There are a great many pitfalls in the establishment and enforcement of policies, so ensure that you’re protected by using a professional to help with yours. A bit of an expense now will save you money later.