Employee Handbooks


What It Is

An employee handbook is a comprehensive document that details procedures for hiring, compensating, managing, and firing your employees. A complete human resources policy will typically contain the following:

    • Welcome statement
    • History of the organization
    • Mission statement
    • Anti-discrimination or diversity policies
    • Orientation procedures
    • Definitions of employment
    • Expectations around timekeeping
    • Compensation information
    • Employee benefits
    • Expectations about conduct and disciplinary policies
    • Guidelines for performance reviews
    • Computer and technology policies
    • Safety procedures
    • Guidelines for leaving
    • Exit interview information[1]


Why It Matters

As the Small Business Administration website says:

“An employee handbook is the most important communication tool between you and your employees. A well-written handbook sets forth your expectations for your employees, and describes what they can expect from your company. An employee handbook should describe your legal obligations as an employer, and your employees’ rights.”[2]

Having a written human resources policy can help your business smoothly navigate the challenges that inevitably result from employing staff members. Having policies in place before incidents arise will make it easier to quickly and fairly handle incidents, and having just policies and organizational transparency will let employees know that you are serious about the work environment and about empowering them to perform at their best within that environment. Moreover, employee handbooks can protect organizations against employee lawsuits.


Getting Started

You probably already have some policies in place, whether tacit or explicit, so write them down and keep them in one place. Share these policies with employees.


Going Further

Ensure that information is kept current. Federal and state laws regarding employment can change, so it’s important to stay on top of such changes. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act was amended in 1998 and other legislation, such as that around hiring discrimination, can change over time.


Advanced Steps

To ensure that your organization’s policies are up to date and will provide protection from lawsuits, consult an attorney in writing your handbook.



  • About.com has an extensive outline of various human resources policies and forms, with examples of each.
  • Inc.com also has plenty of human resources advice.
  • The Small Business Administration offers information and an Employee Handbook Template on its website.


[1] “Employee Handbook,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employee_handbook, accessed 6 August 2013.

[2] “Employee Handbooks,” US Small Business Administration, http://www.sba.gov/content/employee-handbooks, accessed 6 August 2013.

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