What Should You Include in New Employee Handbooks?


Bringing a new person onto your team can be overwhelming. The hiring process was probably stressful in and of itself, but once you’ve made your decision and they’ve accepted your offer, there are a whole new set of challenges you have to face as you try to make this transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved.


A big part of that will be your new employee handbook. With this single document, you can define expectations, communicate efficiently, and set the tone for your employees’ experience at your company—not just for the first few days and weeks, but for the entire duration of their employment.


Since it’s such an important document, you should take the time to do it right. But what exactly needs to be included in a new employee handbook? Here’s a quick guide to get you on the right track.


Company information

Your employee handbook gives you the opportunity to clearly communicate your company’s history, mission, and values to your new employees. Be sure to include a copy of your mission statement, a brief history of your company, and an explanation of your team’s values. Culture is everything in a workplace, and the sooner you can bring your new employee into your culture, the better off everyone will be. 


Legally required information/provisions

There will be some information that you are required, by law, to provide to your employees (non-discrimination policies, worker’s compensation policies, etc.). The U.S. Department of Labor is a good place to start for U.S.-based companies, as it will identify federal requirements in this area. You should look into state and city laws and requirements as well. (Note: if you have employees in different states, you may need more than one version of your handbook.)


It’s imperative that your handbook includes all the information it is legally required to include. If there are any doubts about this, speak to an employment attorney to make sure your handbook meets these important standards.


Clarification: handbook, not contract

Make sure your handbook explicitly states that the handbook is not a contract or a guarantee of employment. Additionally, state that the policies in the handbook are guidelines that are subject to change, and that if there’s any confusion over company policies, the handbook has the last word. Make sure there is a page included that requires the employee’s signature, acknowledging that they understand this information. (For helpful examples on how to word these sections of your handbook, check out this article.)


Policies regarding compensation and benefits

Employees deserve to know, beyond any confusion, how they will be compensated. Make sure they know when they will be paid, and are aware of their options when it comes to receiving their paycheck (physical check, direct deposit, etc.). This is also a good place to talk about how promoting works within your company, as well as when they can expect to receive performance reviews and raises.


Additionally, your handbook should include an overview of the benefits you offer your employees. Discuss who is eligible, what benefits are available to them, and when they can start receiving benefits.


General behavioral guidelines

Your handbook should make very clear how you expect your employees to behave. While this may not look like a detailed list of specific behaviors, you should address general principles that are important to keeping your workplace happy and safe (harassment, dress code, where employees should take complaints, etc.). If you have specific policies about Internet/phone use, daily breaks, and so on, you should include those here as well.


An employee handbook can be a major asset when it comes to starting a new employee off on the right foot at your company. Take the time to make sure this document defines and describes everything it needs to, and you’ll benefit from it for years to come. 


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