How to optimize your small business employee handbook

  • While not required by law, employee handbooks are a great way to inform your employees of your policies and mission. 
  • It can be difficult to determine what to include in your handbook, especially if you don’t have a human resources team to help. 
  • Homebase HR Pro gives you access to certified advisors who can help you create the best employee handbook for your small business and team members. 

Are employee handbooks required by law?

There are many state and federal labor laws that require you as an employer to inform your team members, whether they are restaurant staff members, retail employees, or workers for any other industry, of their workplace rights. 

However, there are not currently any federal laws or state legal requirements that require you to provide an employee handbook to your team members—but it’s a great idea to have one anyway. 

There are a number of reasons an employee handbook, also known as an employee manual, is considered a small business best practice. 

For starters, having a well-prepared document detailing things like your mission statement, code of conduct, dress code, anti-harassment policies, and other general company culture codes can lead to a decrease in confusion. It will help employees feel confident in their knowledge around what is expected of them in the workplace. 

If you have an employee handbook that includes answers to questions on benefits and company policies on things like disciplinary action processes, it can result in a better employee understanding of what you provide as the employer. You or your human resources team can save time and effort on keeping them constantly informed and updated. 

An employee handbook is also a great way to further notify your team members of required information that must be delivered in writing, like Equal Employment Opportunity statements and minimum wage laws. 

While it is required by law that you display labor law posters in visible areas around the workplace, placing them in an employee handbook also further alerts team members of the laws and increases your efforts to make the information readily available. And if you have them all in one place you won’t need to bombard your new employees with a plethora of legal documents. 

Having an up-to-date handbook that lays out your legally compliant policies can even help you if a disgruntled employee decides to file a complaint against you and you need to prove your compliance in court. 

If you don’t currently have an employee handbook implemented into your business, Homebase HR Pro can help. Our certified HR experts can provide employee handbook examples and even create an employee handbook template that works best for you and your employees. We’ll even send you labor law alerts so you can be on top of which policies need to be edited.

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What should be included in an employee handbook?

There are several items to include in your employee handbook as general best practice for your small business. You should include your employer’s mission statement, as well as an Equal Employment Opportunity statement at the beginning of your manual. 

Also in the beginning should be a purpose for the handbook and any background information you want to include about the business. 

Once you get to the in-depth content, first consider the labor laws you are subject to that impact your team, including their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, COBRA, anti-discrimination laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act

It’s important to communicate these rights as much as possible so you can avoid any confusion or complaints. 

Be sure to review all of your existing policies and include a detailed layout of each one in your handbook. For example, if you are drafting a restaurant employee handbook, you could include your policies on how and when servers can swap shifts with one another. 

While you’re reviewing your policies, you may find they aren’t as optimal as they should be. Homebase’s HR Pros can take a look at them for you and give you guidance on what you should edit to make sure they are as clear and beneficial as possible. 

And if you decide you want HR Pro to help you create a manual for you, you’ll receive an employee handbook PDF that includes all of your optimized policies and procedures for topics like employing minors, workplace safety, minimum wage rules and other wage and hour laws, blue laws, employee rights, and more.

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Where can I find an employee handbook sample?

Here is a general free employee handbook template that lays out the basics of what you should include in your own. 

  1. New employee welcome message that includes your company mission, equal employment opportunity statement, the purpose of the handbook, company background information, and any necessary orientation details. 
  2. A layout of your complete list of policies and procedures. These can include the legal rights under ADA, OSHA, anti-discrimination, sexual harassment prevention, payroll information, and more. Your policies can also include business-specific information like attendance, performance review details, promotion processes, and whatever else you want your new employees to be made aware of.  
  3. A list of the benefits you provide, including holiday leave, vacation or sick days, health or life insurance, educational programs, and more. 
  4. Your commitment to employee safety should also be in your handbook. In this section you can lay out emergency procedures, available medical services, personal protective equipment requirements, as well as the legal requirements under OSHA.  
  5. Next you can include your code of conduct that consists of what is expected of each employee and what can happen if a team member falls below those standards. 
  6. Lay out your exit process, including when a final paycheck is administered if an employee quits or is terminated and what happens in terms of any available benefits.
  7. Finally, it’s a good idea to include an acknowledgment of receipt so you can confirm that your new employee has read the handbook and understands the policies. 

Again, this free sample employee handbook template is a general outline for small business owners. But each business is different and you might need more details or policies tailored to your team. Using HR Pro is a great way to ensure your employee handbook is comprehensive, complete, and optimized to keep your workplace running smoothly.

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