A threshold issue facing many companies is whether to publish an employee handbook. The purpose of an employee handbook is to provide a company's employees with the company's policies and inform them of the rules that govern them throughout the stages of employment. Through an employee handbook, employers notify employees about the legal rights and obligations they both have in the employment relationship. While an employee must comply with the policies contained in an employee handbook, a handbook should not be drafted in a way so as to create an employment contract with the employee. In other words, the employee handbook, while specifically describing the rights and duties of the employee, should be drafted in a way so as to maintain the "at will" relationship between the employer and the employee.

Advantages of an Employee Handbook

There are a number of advantages to having an employee handbook.

  • A handbook advises the employee and the employer in writing of their respective duties and obligations. The handbook therefore clarifies expectations and helps promote the fair and consistent administration of policies.
  • A carefully written handbook can improve morale, prevent costly disagreements and, most importantly, keep the employer out of court, as long as it consistently follows the provisions of the handbook.
  • An updated handbook is useful for demonstrating a company's commitment to complying with federal, state and local laws.
  • A handbook can showcase the benefits a company has to offer to employees and prospective employees, as well as can let employees know where they can turn to for various issues.
  • A personalized employee handbook also promotes consistency in management and is an efficient recruitment tool for new employees. A "make it up as you go along" policy of addressing human resource and personnel issues, as well as a "one size fits all" handbook, are one-way tickets to getting sued and incurring liability.

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