Employee handbooks: What you need to know

Author: BLR

Though there are many laws requiring employers to notify employees of certain workplace rights, there are actually no federal or state laws specifically requiring an employer to have an employee handbook—and plenty of employers choose not to have one. But, for a number of reasons, creating and maintaining an employee handbook is a good idea and a best practice.

A well-prepared handbook will answer many of the routine questions that would otherwise end up on the desk of the Human Resources professional or supervisor. When employees know to look in the handbook first, it saves management time. Moreover, an employee handbook is a useful tool for providing employees with that information that, by law, must already be delivered in writing (e.g., equal employment opportunity (EEO) statements).

Rather than provide employees with a haphazard pile of mandatory written notices—and then attempt to document that those notices were received—it makes sense to collect them into an organized, easy-to-use handbook or similar document. Finally, a legally compliant and up-to-date employee handbook may even provide legal protection if an employer’s policies or practices are ever challenged in court.

While there is no one-size-fits-all employee handbook, a well-written employee handbook may do the following:

  • Providing information about the company, its philosophy, and the business;
  • Defining or summarizing the legal relationship between the employer and the employee.
  • Including any workplace notices or policies that are required by law, such as those related to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), to name a few.