It’s important to understand the crucial connection between your employee handbook and your insurance. In fact, you can think of your employee handbook as a fundamental part of your insurance coverage. Essentially, insurance is much of what the book represents, since one of the top priorities as you create your employee handbook should be to protect yourself against costly lawsuits.
Yes, you provide the handbook to deliver information to employees and help onboard them, but the information is provided to help you as well. You can include fun facts about the history of the business and contest records from company picnics, but don’t leave out the nitty-gritty information that is essential to your operations.
The handbook should clearly spell out expectations in all areas of employment, offering guidelines you can refer to if an employee accuses you of unfair treatment. If a situation escalates into a discrimination lawsuit, you have the handbook to fall back on as proof you fully disclosed your policies and properly handled the situation.
Without these disclosures and guidelines, employers put themselves at greater risk of costly lawsuits. To give your business the best protection, create a thorough handbook that covers all the bases. Be sure to include:
Equal opportunity statement: This assures employees that you do not discriminate with regards to gender, religion, disability, etc. Therefore, it helps cover your company’s liability on a host of fronts.
At-will statement: This statement informs employees that their employment with your company is voluntary and subject to termination at will, with or without cause, and with or without notice. This will help cover many situations that could otherwise escalate into lawsuits.
Hiring and firing: Provide the details of your hiring process as well as the process for firing an employee.
Discipline: Provide an outline for disciplinary action. What happens after a first offense, second, and so on? Clearly detail what steps will be taken to correct employee behavior and at what point you will terminate.
Job descriptions: Clearly describe the expectations of each position and the skills required to meet them.
Attendance policies: Specify expectations of attendance, including hours if appropriate. Note the action that will be taken if attendance does not meet these standards.
Complaints: Inform employees of the correct procedure to follow if they need to file a complaint against a fellow worker, a manager, or the company. Let employees know what they can expect as a response.
Open-door policy: Let employees know they can report harassment, violations, or other situations without fear of reprisal. Outline the proper procedures for these actions. Make sure employees know clearly what to do if they experience a situation such as sexual harassment in the workplace.
Zero tolerance policy: State in your handbook any zero tolerance policies. Such policies typically include discrimination, harassment, and substance abuse.
Be sure to include a definitive index, but don’t worry if your handbook becomes lengthy. A thorough handbook will protect your business more effectively against potential lawsuits. It will be well worth the extra pages.
Editor’s Note: These are guidelines only. Here are two of the many resources available to help you ensure your handbook covers what is necessary: Need to Know What Goes into an Employee Handbook? and Top 10 Employee Handbook Updates