As a business owner, you would never enter into a contract without reading, reviewing, and ensuring the contract is the right choice for your business. If you are using text that has been copied and pasted from another website or a template not designed for your business’s needs then you are effectively entering into an agreement with each and every website visitor and customer with documents that may cause you more legal strife than necessary. It is critical that you have a qualified attorney review these policies sooner rather than later.
We have now come to our final essential legal document for your business, the employee handbook which does differ from the employee agreement discussed in a prior article-mainly in that a handbook applies to all employees and contains policies and procedures of the workplace while an employment agreement is specific to one employee and functions as a contract. There are no federal or state laws that require a business to have an employee handbook, but it is strongly recommended and a best practice.
The benefits of an employee handbook are many, not only does this handbook provide clear and consistent expectations, policies, and procedures for employees, but it also provides a convenient way for employers to disseminate information that, by law, must be delivered in writing such as equal employment opportunity statements and family medical leave policies. Additionally, a legally compliant AND up-to-date employee handbook is one of your best and most useful tools to defend against employee claims and provide protection if your policies are ever challenged in court. It shows that your business exercised reasonable care towards its employees and a signed acknowledgment page from your employee demonstrates that your employee read the handbook, received a copy, and agreed to abide by its contents.
Of course, by now it should be clear that there is never a one-size-fits-all document for any company and the same applies for the employee handbook. A well written handbook may include information such as company history, paid time-off policy, employee expectations, pay and promotions, benefits, workplace notices or policies required by law, emphasis that the handbook is not a contract, subject to change, and that the handbook supersedes previous policy documents. Also, don’t forget to include an employee acknowledgment page which after signature should become a permanent fixture in the employee’s personnel file. Once you have assembled your employee handbook ensure that you review the document, although it is advisable that an attorney be involved in preparing the handbook. At the very least, have an attorney review the document once it’s in its final stages. It may be that very review that helps your business avoid future litigation.