An employee handbook, sometimes also known as an employee manual, staff handbook, or company policy manual, is a book given to employees by an employer.
The employee handbook can be used to bring together employment and job-related information which employees need to know. It typically has three types of content:
The employee handbook is almost always a part of a company's onboarding or induction process for new staff. A written employee handbook gives clear advice to employees and creates a culture where issues are dealt with fairly and consistently.
While it often varies from business to business, specific areas that an employee handbook may address include:
Revisions to an employee handbook vary from company to company. At many larger companies, a revised handbook comes out annually or at other regular intervals. It is recommended that handbooks be updated regularly as laws and regulations change.
New employees are often required to sign an acknowledgement form stating they have received, read and understand the information within the employee handbook and accept its terms.
Acknowledgement forms typically have additional content:
Failure of an employee to sign the acknowledgement form within a timely manner may prevent them from being hired or may result in termination.
In 2009, Netflix publicly released a presentation entitled Netflix Culture: Freedom & Responsibility that described their movement away from a company culture based on command and control and towards one centered around freedom and responsibility. The presentation went viral and as of March 2018 had over 17 million views.
Because the presentation also discusses other common company policies, it is often referred to as Netflix's employee handbook. It has been very influential, with many companies copying their "unlimited" vacation policy and their simple "Act in Netflix’s best interests" expenses policy.
Alongside the Valve Handbook for New Employees and the Zappos Culture Book, the presentation has influenced many companies to create culture-first employee handbooks that highlight their company culture instead of or before policies that would be found in a traditional employee handbook. Even the policies are rewritten in a much different way than tradition would dictate, or include informal summaries or introductions in plain language.
Federal and state laws and the growing number of cases of employee-related litigation against management strongly suggests that a written statement of company policy is a business necessity for firms of any size.
For example, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that in 2005, companies paid out more than $378 million in discrimination non-litigated settlements. In 2014, the EEOC received a total of 88,778 discrimination charges filed against private businesses.
Other examples of litigation against a company stemming from employee actions are the release of a customer's private information and, of course, the actions of one employee against another; sexual harassment being one type of offensive employee conduct.
That said, some legal counsels recommend very small companies (less than 10 or 15 employees) to not have a handbook at all because most very small companies find it difficult to dedicate time or resources to maintaining an up-to-date employee handbook. It may be less risky for very small companies to not have documented policies at all rather than having misleading, out-of-date, or incomplete policies. However, others have maintained that there are benefits to small organizations, such as some NGOs, to maintain a quality policy manual for staff.
One of the most important aspects of any employee handbook is that the handbook is kept current as laws change. If a company chooses to publish its handbook in multiple languages, each version should be updated concurrently.
Employee handbooks are of a great necessity when it comes to running a business, they help employers manage their business without any complications and conflicts of interest, they also help employees gain an understanding of what is expected of them while being employed.
Employee handbooks should be reviewed by an attorney for consistency and compliance with current federal and state or provincial laws. As an example, many US states have specific laws that go above and beyond federal laws. Because of this, a New Mexico employee handbook should not be used in California. In the US, California is the state with the highest number of regulations that go above and beyond federal law. Companies operating there usually have special content for California employees. Other states that will typically require special content are New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, Washington DC, and Texas.
In the United Kingdom, the employee handbook may also form part of an employee's terms and conditions of employment. If five or more people are employed, it is a requirement of the Health and Safety at Work Act to have a written statement of the company's health and safety policy.