Many small businesses rarely think about having an Employee Handbook. They either shy away from them believing that they have more important things to do or consider their employees should intuitively know what to do. Small businesses and organizations are intimated by the work that goes into putting an employee handbook together. Still, there are potential dangers of not having one. Here are three reasons why entrepreneurs and small businesses should have an employee handbook:
1) Handbooks Set Employee AND Employer Expectations.
A large number of lawsuits occur because employers and employees operate under a different set of expectations. Employee handbooks allow employers to set forth everything from job responsibilities to disciplinary procedures, thus keeping employee and employer expectations consistent, so there is little or no misunderstanding. Employees are willing to accept most things associated with their work if they know about it before it becomes a problem. To be effective, employees and employers must sign the employee handbook, and each keeps a copy.
2) Handbooks Help Limit Legal Liability.
If you review most court cases, it is pretty clear that employers, who don’t have a sexual harassment policy and reporting procedure, will lose vital legal defenses that are otherwise available under the law. Employers will face great difficulty defending themselves in almost every situation, from unemployment hearings to discrimination actions, when no written policies are available for review.
3) Employee Discipline Is More Uniform.
A written disciplinary procedure in a handbook means that employers and employees know what to expect when a rule is violated. It is easy to defend. One of the biggest causes of losing unemployment hearings and discrimination is when an employer treats similar situations differently. An employee handbook will most always eliminate this problem.
4) A Handbook Communicates Important Information.
Without an employee handbook,management wastes time answering the same questions repeatedly. Handbooks include a recap of benefits, work times, dress codes, lunch rules, and other “everyday” issues that save time and energy for all and more. When an employee reads and signs his or her handbook acknowledging receipt, this is an acceptance of a mutual code of communication and will vastly reduce potential misunderstanding.
5) Handbooks Allow Employers to Make Decisions Ahead of Time. Policy decisions concerning everything from dress codes, smoker’s rights, social media, personal blogs, and privacy concerns in the workplace can all be carefully thought out, discussed, and decided upon before an issue arises. This means that long-range implications and other, more subtle matters can be incorporated into the handbook’s management’s decision-making process.
There are many more good reasons to have an employee handbook. The most important reasons are that handbooks save you time and money if something goes wrong and protects you more than you can imagine. They are relatively inexpensive to produce yet can save you thousands of dollars over the long term. If your business does not have one, you should seriously consider creating and implementing one for your company and its well-being. One final thought is as follows: document, document document. It is vitally important that you document, in writing, (date, time and all other circumstances) whenever there are issues with employees.
If you have a handbook, make sure it has been updated. You should include current business conditions (Internet use, social media, evacuation policies, etc.), working conditions, and the latest laws. And once it is complete, each employee should sign it and be provided a written copy. Finally, handbook policies that are not enforced or enforced sporadically will not be helpful or protect you legally.
To learn more about why you should have an employee handbook, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.