Starting your own business is a difficult venture. You have to take care of a plethora of things and even then success is never guaranteed. Only after you go through several trials and tribulations, and learn from your experiences will you finally be able to carve your name in the world of entrepreneurship. In this world, the one who perseveres is the one who survives.
Employees are the part and parcel of any company. Having employees on board is one thing; making them follow your lead is entirely another. The success of a company is engrained in the ability of the employers to manage their employees. Discipline, work ethic, professionalism and dedication are vital components of a well-run organization. All these requirements are encapsulated in an employee handbook that is generally unique to a company. An employee handbook guides all employees on how to behave and conduct themselves in the realm of an office space. Basically, it is a summary of the organization’s policies and regulations.
The following are some of the things you should know before you write an employee handbook. Mind you, these are just guidelines to help you with the writing process. Writing the perfect employee handbook is an art in itself. You cannot simply conjure an all-encompassing, well-written handbook out of thin air. In fact, it takes years of experience, effort and constantly updating yourself with the times to write the perfect one. As always, practice makes perfect.
1. Why do you need an employee handbook?
All companies have policies––formal or informal––that dictate the terms of employment and expectations from its employees. Having clearly defined policies in one document creates an easily accessible record for the company hierarchy.
For new employees, you may use this handbook to easily introduce them to the company’s rules and regulations. With an employee handbook, you don’t need to run around telling everyone how to behave in the office.
2. A handbook can protect you in court.
Running a company is not easy work. There are a thousand things that can go wrong, and sooner or later, you might even have to be in a court battling a disgruntled ex-employee. Say, he files a case believing he didn’t deserve to get sacked –– you might have to take the blame for someone else’s wrongdoing.
The same laws may not be universally applicable, or there may be distinct laws based on the nature of your business. Having a hard copy of your company’s rules and regulations is. therefore, vital as everything you want to address will be established in writing. Further, if you do not have the policies deemed necessary by legislation, you could be prosecuted and fined.
3. “Must have” handbook provisions
There are many indispensable provisions that must be included in your handbook. Some of these are related to the well-being of the employees. Violence and harassment in the workplace are inexcusable and must be forbidden.
A company must include an occupational health and safety policy. Human rights is another issue that has been in the spotlight for several years now. The latter two policies are absolutely necessary, especially in the construction industry.
4. “Good to have” and other handbook provisions
Your employee handbook can cover an extensive scope of policies that sometimes may include some unorthodox policies as well. They may be out-of-the-box, but addressing these policies may sometimes be crucial for the functioning of your company.
Say that two employees fall in love at work and start exhibiting public displays of affection much to the chagrin or amusement of other employees. This may affect the overall performance of the company and having a policy on such issues can firmly draw the line between work and personal life.
Privacy, computer and internet policy, work attendance, overtime, pregnancy, etc. are some other policies which may be instrumental to the company’s operation.
5. Remember, it’s only a guide
Sometimes, an employee handbook may be misinterpreted as a contract statement. But unless you want it to be treated so, it is better to explicitly state at the outset that the handbook is not intended to be used as a contract document.
This is critical, like in the case of employment-at-will, which means that the boss can fire an employee at his will for any reason (except discrimination or other exceptions). Every now and then, you might want to exercise that power to let people off whenever you want.
But, if your handbook specifically lists reasons for termination, without proper disclaimers, these may be considered as the ONLY legal base for termination, if the handbook is considered a contract.
6. Communicating your employee handbook
As mentioned above, a handbook can help defend your company in a court case. But if an employee can somehow prove that they never saw or read a copy, the court can’t help you at all.
So, make sure that all your employees have read and agreed to the terms written down in the handbook. Ask them to sign a statement saying that they have done so and also notify them in case of any updates or new additions. A meeting to review policy changes will also serve well.
Make your handbook pleasing to the eye and easy to understand, avoiding jargon wherever possible. Title it unconventionally if you want; this is your company’s handbook, not a lesson in literature. Use one that will engage your employees and articulate your company’s culture right away.
7. Consult an employment attorney
As your company grows, and your handbook incorporates a wide range of policies, it may become tedious to update these policies regularly. Not to mention, when your company opens a branch in a new part of the country, it may require new policies in accordance with the jurisdiction there.
These laws may sometimes be overlooked, which can have serious implications for the company. Having an attorney comes in handy in these situations. And these employee handbooks should be reviewed at least once every two years.
The times change fast, and updating these policies regularly may be the key to your company becoming the next big thing or languishing in bankruptcy.
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