Employee handbooks can be a great resource for both employees and employers. A handbook is essentially a compilation of workplace rules and is an excellent way to communicate work polices to employees. Handbooks come in all shapes and sizes, but on the whole contain certain common elements such as information about the company, general workplace polices, and certain policies prohibiting unlawful discrimination in the workplace. Other common components are sections prohibiting disclosure of confidential information and how and when an employee can take a leave of absence. There really is no limit to the number of policies in a handbook and larger employers often have handbooks that are extremely comprehensive.
Employees benefit from handbooks because they learn company policies, what is expected of them and what they can expect from their employer, unique aspects of the employer that separate it from others in the industry, and depending on the company, its history.
Employers are also well-served by handbooks. Employers are able to communicate information directly to employees and announce and communicate workplace policies. Employers are also able to set forth equal opportunity employment and anti-discrimination policies, and aside from conveying this information, if an employee files a complaint with an agency such as the EEOC, the first question the agency will ask is whether the company has the appropriate policies.
Should all employers have a handbook? For a new or small business that is carefully managing its resources, it can sometimes feel like an added cost, but if the business is growing quickly or the number of employees is above ten, then it is likely that the benefits of even a simple handbook will outweigh the costs.
In recent months, the NLRB has been addressing employment policies such as social media polices, and many employers have been frustrated by these often critical rulings. Despite these pronouncements, employers should not become frustrated. Handbooks are an opportunity for employers to pass on valuable information to employees and can help shield a business from charges of discrimination or unfair treatment. Even if workplace policies are coming under greater scrutiny in certain quarters, the benefits of a handbook still overcome any hesitancy.