Having your company’s policies and procedures outlined in a handbook, updated regularly and legally reviewed, will notably help a small business run smoothly when it comes to managing vacation requests, attendance, discipline, and much more. Having these written rules and guidelines can lower a small business’ risk of liability and protect against expensive lawsuits. All businesses must obey local, state, and federal laws, which are complicated and change regularly. Instead of struggling to keep up with the shifting regulations and the complexities of employee lawsuits, having a human resource professional create a set of uniform procedures can save small businesses time and money in the long run.
What good is an employee handbook?
Small businesses, which are defined as companies with 50 employees or less, generally don’t have the manpower to have their own in-house human resource department. That being said, all small businesses should have an employee handbook at the very least. Many small businesses can not afford to be involved in massive financial lawsuits over something that could have easily been prevented by having a set of written rules, guidelines, and consequences for the company.
To ensure a small business’ day to day operations are running smoothly, an employee handbook can act as a lifeline for employee questions and knowing what is expected of them. Handbooks should also list the expectations of an employer. That way both sides of the company can do their jobs effectively and efficiently. If guidelines are vague, small businesses open themselves up to the possibilities of a toxic company culture, high turnover rates, and lawsuits.
Employee handbooks are particularly helpful when onboarding new employees. A well-crafted employee handbook should serve as a step by step guide for their new job: what’s expected of them, what they can expect of their employer, goals, the company mission statement, and a taste of the workplace environment. After onboarding is complete, employees should always have easy access to the handbook, whether by hard copy or electronic.
What should employee handbooks include?
When creating an employee handbook, small businesses should never use a standard template as it may not cover all necessary bases, leaving the company vulnerable to liability. It should be as specific and tailored as possible to the particular business and industry it is in. Small businesses may use other similar companies’s handbooks to draw inspiration when starting out.
For example, here’s a list of some of the sections that should be included in a small business’ employee handbook.
- Company mission, value, and culture statement
- Workplace and sexual harassment policies and consequences
- Dress code – If applicable, the difference in dress code for the office versus field work should be clearly stated here.
- Breaks, absences, and leave policies – This includes lunch breaks, rest breaks, bereavement leave, holiday leave, jury duty leave, witness leave, time off to vote leave, maternity leave, military leave, personal days, and paid time off (PTO) leave.
- Benefits package offered
- Pay periods, payment methods, and overtime
- Privacy rules
- Company and personal social media and technology use
- Laws specific to the business’ industry, city, and state
Going beyond the rules outlined in an employee handbook, it can also be used as a way to showcase the company culture and entice potential new hires. According to Forbes, company culture is the vision and values an employer ingrains in their business and the environment that results. Company culture plays a huge role in the effectiveness of a business and the people an employer attracts and hires. One way this can be done is through creative designs, colors, and images that give the handbook a reflecting personality of the business itself. Additionally, the company mission, value, and culture statement listed in the beginning of the employee handbook should include what matters most to them as a company and how they achieve that, the employer’s personal values and how that’s emphasized, as well as a system that will attract, motivate, and allow employees to grow and thrive. This statement should guide and influence all the following policies and procedures outlined throughout the handbook. When everyone is on the same page, a small business’ success is smooth-sailing to achieve!
At the minimum, employee handbooks should be updated annually. It is the business’s job to stay up-to-date on new laws or regulations being passed everyday. As soon as new local, state, and federal laws are passed, employee handbooks should have them reflected accordingly in words as soon as possible.
All in all, whether a business has 5 employees, 50 employees, or 500 employees, all must have an employee handbook. For small businesses, investing the time and effort in the beginning stages of development will help their companies grow and flourish, with little resistance, in no time!