The Employee Handbook - Friend or Foe?

So many small businesses do not have Employee Handbooks. I hear a wide variety of reasons why, but the most common is that they just don’t get around to it. I have also heard it is too expensive and too hard to make one size that fits all for “their” employees. I suppose if you have only one employee then you likely don’t need one, but for those with two or more keep reading.

If you have one – GREAT – my question to you is – “Are you following it?”. If you have a 100+ page Employee Handbook and you don’t even know what is in there, you likely have a bigger problem than not having one at all. It may shock you, but having a Handbook and then breaking your own rules sets a precedent. The DOL is not too keen on allowing you to only apply the rules when it’s convenient for you as an Employer. My suggestion is to review your current book and either cut it down to something you can truly follow or eliminate the Employee Handbook and then opt for written Employment Agreements with each employee. Each can be customized for the position and the standard boiler plate parts you need added in to cover more adequately than a Handbook you ignore.

For those of you that do not have one yet. Do something good for your business and prioritize it. Most often I find that employees welcome having the rules given to them in writing - especially when they are followed by all. Make sure you get an Employee Handbook customized to your business and needs. Yes, some DOL rules apply to every employer and employee, but many rules are determined by the number of Full-time Equivalent (FTE) Employees you have working for you at one time. Other rules can really be what you want them to be, custom to the company.

Employers with sound Handbooks that are followed have a bit of insurance when dealing with some difficult employee issues. If you lay out the rules in writing and make sure they are followed by management then you may be able to save precious points on your unemployment rate when terminating a troublemaker. It also aids in hanging on to the good employees you want to keep. Rules may feel like your foe, restrictive and difficult when trying to get some things done, but rules are also a great friend, they are an equalizer and short road for unloading an employee who is not helping your bottom line.

By: Kimberly Manrow EA