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Creating an Effective Employee Handbook for Your Business

Posted by Karen Young on Jul 20, 2023 5:51:23 PM

Businesses of all industries face risks in their daily operations that could impact their overall well-being. Successful companies that properly mitigate these risks develop clear policies and procedures that promote employee behaviors that minimize the occurrence of these risks. Employee handbooks are essential to proper employee behavior and operations and serve as crucial documentation of expectations. In addition to promoting an effective and safe working environment, handbooks can help employers mitigate tricky situations regarding employee behavior and serve as a reference point for the outlined requirement of behavior. Ensuring your employee handbook is thoughtfully crafted and thorough will help provide guidance on avoiding business risks and claims.

What to Include in Your Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks should encompass a variety of subjects that relate back to your company's vision, mission, values, and goals. Some topics that should be covered in your handbook include:

Employment At Will Policy

If your employees are hired under an at-will policy, which most states enforce, it's important to include a statement in your handbook so employees understand their employment terms. At-will means employees can leave or be let go at any time, and including this in your handbook will provide protection for employment practices.

Harassment and Discrimination Policy

Unfortunately, workplace harassment and discrimination are common occurrences that can severely damage the morale of your company and the well-being of employees. The safety and well-being of your employees should always come first. They also often lead to lawsuits and situations that can be quite damaging to your business. Including a harassment and discrimination statement that clearly states a zero-tolerance policy and outlines all examples of harassment and discrimination that won’t be tolerated is imperative. The benefits of an anti-harassment and discrimination policy are increasing workplace culture, preventing harmful behavior, protecting employees, and reducing the danger of non-compliance.

Code of Conduct

Codes of conduct for your business will encourage employees to handle difficult situations in an ethical and compassionate way. Even if a code of conduct is not mandated by your state, it should be included in your employee handbook. It can serve as an additional source of documentation for the expectations of employees in their daily behavior and help avoid any inappropriate situations. It should set guidelines on how employees should speak to one another, interact with clients, and focus on respect and teamwork. It can also include consequences such as written warnings if an employee’s behavior is found to be against the code of conduct.

Health and Safety

Establishing proper health and safety protocols is an important aspect of an employee handbook. This aspect should include information on handling equipment, emergency protocols, evacuation details, hazardous material handling, and health and wellness programs. This information is intended to create a safe and healthy workplace where employees can thrive. While this should be included in every business, it is especially important to provide thorough guidelines for industries whose operations revolve around machinery or manual labor.

Risk Management Policies

If a situation occurs within the workplace that could lead to legal action, a risk management policy is necessary to guide employees on how to properly handle the situation. This portion should include how to file a complaint or report, who employees should speak to, and all the additional steps needed to resolve the issue. Every company will face certain risks at some point or another, and it's important to have employees up to date on how to move forward in the event of a potential legal situation.

Employee Handbook Training

Simply having an employee handbook is not enough to make sure it serves as an influential resource. All employees, regardless of position or title, should be fully trained in their handbook so businesses are confident that everyone is up to date on best practices. Training should be completed at the time of onboarding, and refresh sessions should be held at least once a year. To protect your business, it's important to file documentation of completed training with employee signatures in the event the handbook is breached, and action is required.

Business Insurance with ECBM

Even with the best employee handbook, there are occasions when businesses are faced with employee-related claims. To fully protect yourself and your employees, having an insurance program that covers claims related to employee practices, harassment, and health and safety is imperative. Our team of experts can consult you on your unique business needs and develop a program that covers all areas of potential risks. For more information on how we can serve your organization, contact one of our agents.