corporate law

Employment Handbook: Why you Need One

Many of our clients fall into the "small business" category, often with fewer than 20 employees.  One of the most popular questions we get is "Why would a small employer need an employment handbook?"  Answer:  Because employment handbooks are the foundation of a solid business.  If you are on the brink of getting an employment handbook, this post may be beneficial for you.

As easy as it would be to respond with "because I said so,"  I do understand that concern that a small business with a handful of employees does not need a Google-sized employment handbook.  In fact, based on the employer's size, there may be a lot of standard policies that simply do not apply.  However, having good human resources is really the foundation of a good business.  Positive HR means a positive workforce and happy employees means happy corporate books and happy corporate books typically means you have quality talent working for you.  In contrast, bad HR means an unhappy workforce which leads to unhappy corporate books which is typically a sign that you do not have the caliber of talent as do your competitors.  In other words:  Positive HR, GOOD. Negative HR, BAD.  

So what makes HR positive?  Part of it is having a strong set of company policies that are fairly and evenly enforced and easy for employees to learn and follow.  A collection of said policies is what I refer to as an employment handbook.  

Employment handbooks can be as thorough or simple as you want.  It is also an excellent way to convey to employees the personality you want your business to carry.  If you want a fun work environment that is also serious, your company policies can convey this feeling while serving as a guide for supervisors and employees alike.  

That brings me to my next point:  employment handbooks are also great because they are the perfect scape-goat for some really tough decisions.  For example, supervisors and managers can always point to the employment handbook as the "rules" in which they must follow which can make disciplinary actions and even terminations a lot less painful.  At the same time, employment handbooks help set some boundaries and guidelines for employees.  Having everyone on the same page is a sign of positive HR and will save you a lot of pain in the future as problems inevitably arise.  Plus, if you are ever under investigation by the EEOC or the state or federal departments of labor, one of the first things they ask for is a copy of the employment handbook.  Trust me, when you do not have one in place, it does not look good on the employer. 

Finally, employment handbooks can be customized to fit your company's needs.  I've done handbooks as short as 10 pages and as long as 70 pages.  I always review a long list of policies with clients and discuss which ones are "necessary" and which ones are completely optional.  I also like to talk about the company's personality so I can tailor the handbook's language accordingly.  

If you do not have a handbook and you do have at least one employee,  give us a call so we can talk about the importance of handbooks and why it may be beneficial for you and your employees!