The perfect employee handbook template

by Carlo Borja
employee handbook template

Looking for an employee handbook template?

An employee handbook, also known as an employee manual, is an essential document that every business needs to have. It’s a document that communicates your company’s culture, expectations and rules of employment. 

An employee manual keeps your employees informed about things; while simultaneously helping them achieve your company’s objectives. 

This article contains a free employee handbook template that discusses everything you need to know and include. You can use the template and adapt it to your workplace to get started immediately.

However, that isn’t all. 

We’ll also highlight the benefits of crafting a great employee handbook for your company. 

This article covers:

(click on the links below to jump to a specific section)

Let’s get started.

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is a document that provides guidance and information to your existing and  new hires. As you’ll see in this sample handbook, the information you need to include in your handbook ranges from your company’s history, objectives and policies to your company’s policies and expectations. 

What is the purpose of an employee handbook?

A handbook gives your employees a sense of certainty about their employment. Whenever they’re confused about anything in relation to their job, they can consult their handbook for the answers.

The document also spells out the rule of the game for your employees. For example, if an employee wants to take leave, your company’s employee handbook will lay out the necessary steps in your leave policy that the employee needs to follow. 

A handbook also protects your company when you fire an employee or if there’s a workplace conflict between an employer and employee. It clearly lays out the procedure to ensure that all conflicts are resolved in an amicable manner.

What you should include in an employee handbook?

Now that we’ve covered what an employee handbook is, let’s go over the different sections you need to include in one. Use this guide as a rough template to guide you through what your handbook needs:

A. Welcome

Like any other employee on their first day, your new hires don’t want to be bombarded with rules and regulations the minute they open your employee handbook. So, it’s a good idea to begin the onboarding process with a warm welcome – informing them about how excited you are to have them on the team.

B. Company culture and history

If you were starting a new job, wouldn’t you want to know exactly what you’re signing up for? 

This is exactly what this section of the handbook intends to do. 

You should include your company’s goals, mission statement and a brief history of your company and its organizational structure. 

This will also give your employees the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the management team and the company in general. 

C. Employment basics 

This section of the handbook provides employees with general information about their employment agreement. 

Here’s the kind of employment information you should include:

1. Contracts

This section discusses basic employment contract details, including information about part-time and full-time employment as well as freelance agreements, internships and apprenticeships.   

2. Responsibilities

A responsibilities section in your handbook lets you outline employee expectations, what you expect from the employee and other employment rules. It should also provide some insight into their job classification and what kind of working hours they can expect.

3. Recruitment process

It’s a good idea to discuss your human resource policies in your handbook because it lets every employee know that everyone at your company goes through the same employment process. You can include a brief description of every step in your process, what recruitment software you use and a list of pre employment tests and checks. 

4. Attendance

It’s important to clearly spell out the employment attendance rules in your handbook. This section should include the steps employees need to take when they want to take a leave of absence and when your company will accept an unreported absence. 

Hint: To help you out, check out our detailed employee attendance and employee overtime policy guides.

5. Performance reviews

Performance reviews ensure that your employees are performing optimally and improving on their shortcomings wherever they can. 

This section in your employee handbook should discuss how you plan to document performance, how the evaluation process works and whether reviews will be conducted weekly or yearly. 

To make this section of the handbook more inviting, you can include information about how good performance leads to bonuses and promotions at your company.

D. Code of conduct

Here, you can discuss how employees should apply company rules in the workplace. This includes how you expect your employees to treat coworkers and customers and the level of respect and ethical principles each company employee needs to abide by.

E. Disciplinary practices and dispute resolution

Stating your company’s disciplinary procedures in your handbook is important because it lets every employee know that there are consequences for not following employee policies.

If you’re looking for a detailed guide on this, check out our article on workplace discipline.

F. Workplace policy   

In this section of your employee handbook, you’ll describe company policies that keep your employees safe and healthy throughout their employment. 

It includes workplace conditions and the policies you’ve put in place to make it a lawful and enjoyable experience. However, remember to review documents on labor law and employment law in your area before writing this section.

In this section of the handbook, you should address:

1. Dress code policy

Here, you should outline how you expect your new employees to dress – whether it’s casual, formal wear or a specific uniform. 

2. Health and safety policy

This subsection of the handbook should describe how each employee can ensure the safety of themselves and their colleagues. This can include rules about smoking, drug use, work-related injuries and bringing weapons to work.

3. Anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy

Here, your employee handbook should present your company’s stance on harassment and discrimination. 

Your anti-harassment and discrimination policies need to mention what kind of behavior you won’t tolerate in the workplace and how and where cases of harassment and discrimination can be reported. 

You should also discuss how your company promotes equal opportunity. Remember, it’s important to consult an attorney or other professional before writing this section of your company handbook as there are federal laws and state laws you need to follow. 

4. Confidentiality and privacy policy

As the employer, you’ll need to draw up a non-disclosure agreement outlining how your company will protect internal information and how you expect employees to protect other stakeholders’ information as well. 

Your handbook should also mention how an employee should protect your company’s data during and after their employment.

5. Computer, email and social media policy

This policy section is about how you expect new hires to conduct themselves when they’re online and using company equipment. It covers how they’re expected to use their work emails, work computers and what they can and can’t post on social media in relation to the company. 

Check out our computer usage policy and email policy guides for more information on this.

6. Emergency policy

This is an important section to look for in any employee handbook template, especially if your employees work in dangerous conditions such as construction plants.

Here, outline the procedure every employee needs to follow in the cases of theft, fire or any other natural disaster in the workplace.

Your handbook should include appropriate meeting spots, what equipment (elevators) shouldn’t be used and ensure employees to remain calm in the case of disasters.

G. Compensation Policy

Here, you include information on how you plan to pay your employees and what kind of rewards are up for grabs. 

You should also include important information about salary structures – whether they’ll be hourly, weekly or monthly. Also include information on who qualifies as a non-exempt employee and how labor law protects non-exempt employees.

H. Employee benefits

This section of the handbook is similar to the above, as it also focuses on incentives. You’ll be discussing every employee benefit that is available and how an employee can qualify for them.

It’s a good idea to create sub-sections of the different employee benefits your company offers and how your employees can avail of them. 

I. PTO and vacation policies

Here, you cover everything there is to know about the leave and vacation process at your company. Not only should you cover general leaves available to each employee, but also distinguish between state-mandated sick leave, paid leave, medical leave and vacation time. 

Some other leaves you should include are bereavement leave, jury-duty leave and military leave. 

J. Employee resignation and termination

If an employee is no longer a great fit for your company or if they’ve decided to leave, you need to have a process to offboard them. 

To make sure this process is clear, this section of your employee handbook should contain:

1. Resignation process

Outline how your company deals with resignation and the notice period that’s required.

2. Termination process

Outline what kind of behavior can lead to employee termination. Also, mention your internal termination policy and under what conditions your company offers severance pay.

In order to deal with wrongful termination, your employee handbook should clearly outline all the possible reasons for termination to ensure that an employee is not caught off guard. To add transparency to this step, always document instances of poor performance in employee personnel files.

3. References

Notify employees that your company is willing to provide references and in what situations your company may decline to do so.

Disclaimer: This handbook sample simply provides general guidelines and should only be used only as a reference. It might not adhere to relevant local, state, or federal laws and is not a legal document. Time Doctor does not assume any legal liability that may arise from the use of this handbook example. 

What are the benefits of an employee handbook?

employee handbook benefits

Now that you know what an employee handbook is and what one looks like, you may be wondering, “why do I need one in the first place?”

To help you understand why an employee handbook is so essential, just go over the benefits we’ve listed here:

1. Introduces employees to your company’s mission and core values

As we discussed earlier, the opening section of your handbook introduces a new employee to your company. They get an idea of your company’s vision statement, mission statement, and company culture. 

Employees will use this information to decide how they’ll fit in your company, which in turn, will boost employee engagement.  

2. Helps employees work productively

The handbook template we highlighted discussed employee responsibilities, standards of conduct, and the consequences of going against a company policy

This gives your employees clear expectations from the get-go to ensure that they work productively from the moment they join the company. 

3. Fosters a healthy working environment

Your employee handbook covers everything employees need to know about the work environment. This helps them familiarize themselves with what they’ll be working with – ensuring that they’re prepared for what’s to come.

It’ll also help them adapt quickly – helping them build a positive employment relationship. 

4. Helps defend against employee claims

Your employee handbook is one of the greatest tools you can use when you’re facing any legal dispute between you and your former or current employees. 

The employee handbook lays out all the formalities involved and acts as proof that the employee had knowledge of all your company policies when they joined.

5. Employees can refer to the employee handbook when they’re uncertain

Your employee handbook covers everything an employee needs to know if they’re confused or uncertain of anything in their work environment. They’ll know who they can communicate with and the procedure that needs to follow. 

Concluding thoughts

While it’s tempting to just go with the flow and let your employees figure things out on their own, they’ll be far better off with some structure guiding them through your business.

And that’s exactly what an employee handbook does.

It clearly outlines everything your employees need to know to ensure that they’re always aware of what they have to do, what they’re entitled to, and the steps they need to take for any activity.

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