Points to Spell Out
in Employee Handbooks
An employee handbook serves as a guide for managers and employees
alike. It can help avoid conflict when specific situations arise and
head off potential problems before they happen. A good handbook can
also create an incentive for employees to make a long-term commitment
to your company.
Employee Legal Complaints
employee handbook should include the following topics:
Scope of duties and hours.
Distinguish between clerical and other positions. For non-professional
staff, state normal office hours (such as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and note
lunch and break times.
Describe your policy for misuse of company property, such as computers,
fax machines, copiers, telephones and on line services. For example,
what is your policy on personal e-mail and what are the consequences
for violating it?
Overtime. Under federal and local laws, payment for overtime
is mandatory for some employees. In certain limited situations, "comp"
time may be provided in lieu of cash overtime payments. Describe these
leave. State the
maximum time permitted (with and without pay), the rate of accrual and
eligibility. Also cover the effect of unused sick leave — for
example, if any portion carries over to the next year or if unused sick
leave results in a bonus.
and vacation. List the federal and local
holidays that your company observes. Address how much vacation is
permitted, when an employee is eligible, the accrual rate, and whether
any portion carries over to the next year. Also cover how vacation
increases for additional years of service and whether the employee is
entitled to payment for unused vacation time upon termination.
harassment and discrimination. Clearly state
that your company will not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination
based on race, religion or national policy. Instruct employees to
report violations immediately.
employment. Describe what constitutes a
part-time employee and how this affects benefits.
benefits. This is usually addressed in a
separate document with only a cross-reference in the employee handbook.
Describe group term
life, health, and other insurance benefits that are available. List any
cost to employees. Address how claims are processed and who is
responsible for handling questions in the organization. Obviously, the
nature of insurance options and coverage depends on the cost and extent
of coverage. However, it is appropriate to include a general outline of
the process, with qualifications for changes.
Leave. State the amount of time
permitted for maternity and paternity leave with pay and without pay.
Address how leave for adoptions is treated. What about family medical
leave? (Make sure your policies comply with legislation that requires
leave in certain circumstances.) Also include your policy on military
leave, disability and jury duty.
Smoking and drug policies. State
your company’s smoking and drug policy. On the subject of
drugs, mention whether all applicants are tested and if random tests
and searches are permitted for cause. In addition, address whether the
employer pays for drug testing and if there is a rehabilitation policy.
Special care must be taken in articulating these provisions to avoid
Clarify the circumstances that lead to termination. Clearly state that
employment is "at will" and may be terminated at any time by the
employer with or without cause. Notice periods for terminations should
be stated. Any payment upon termination should also be stated. Other
possible issues: Is severance paid based on years of service
or some other standard? Also describe procedures for exit interviews or