HR Management & Compliance

Do You Need an Employee Handbook?

There are no California or federal laws requiring an employer to have an employee handbook. But for a number of reasons, it’s a good idea. A well-prepared handbook will answer many of the routine questions that would otherwise end up on the desk of HR, or being fielded by a supervisor.

When employees know to look in the handbook first, it saves management time. Moreover, an employee handbook is a useful tool for providing employees with certain information that, by law, must be in writing (such as equal employment opportunity (EEO) statements).

5 Perks To Having a Well-Written Employee Handbook

1. Provides information about the company, its philosophy, and the business.

2. Defines or summarizes the legal relationship between the employer and the employee.

3. Provides information on benefits, paid time off, and other perquisites.


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4. May include policies that are required by law, such as those related to family leave, COBRA, and sexual harassment.

5. Sets out work rules, standards of conduct, disciplinary procedures, and other information that lets employees know what is expected of them as employees.

Handbooks Get Your Message — and Mission — Across

The employee handbook is a great communication tool because it is given to all employees. As a result, it’s an opportunity to let employees know certain things about the company. Depending on the message the employer wants to send, the handbook might include:

  • A brief history of the company
  • An explanation of the company’s philosophy, focus, or mission; e.g., customer service, continuous improvement, excellence, high ethical standards, and maximization of profits
  • A statement about the employee’s role in the company’s success
  • A statement about the company’s equal opportunity policy

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Define the Relationship

The employee handbook also defines the legal relationship between the employer and the employee. Promises made by employers in employee handbooks can be construed as a contract.

In order to avoid contractual commitments, all handbooks should include a section at the very beginning that states employment is at will and that nothing in the handbook is intended to or does create a contract with the employee.

It is also a good idea to include a statement reserving the company’s right to change, amend, or delete sections of the handbook at its discretion. These statements should also be included in an acknowledgment signed by the employee when he or she receives the handbook.

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