Many companies refer to their employee handbooks as their “corporate bible,” spelling out all kinds of policies ranging from serious matters, such as sexual harassment, to less consequential ones, such as lunch breaks or even casual Fridays. One of the goals of this employee handbook, besides helping create an office culture, is to create legal safeguards that will protect you and your company against potential lawsuits. As such, this should be thought of as an integral part of your insurance coverage, both when you originally write the handbook and whenever you decide to undertake revisions in order to protect yourself and your company. No matter if your employees work remotely or in an office, you need to cover all pertinent issues in your employee handbook.
Parts of the handbook are culturally significant for you and your company and will include information such as company history, important milestones, and necessary information on the employee benefits package. Keeping the tone lighthearted and informational shouldn’t prevent you from getting into the crucial things that you need to let your employees know about so they know what to expect from you and your business and so that your business is protected. The handbook should provide a clear set of guidelines in each and every area of that employee’s employment that you can refer to if they allege you treated them in an unfair manner. If a lawsuit alleging discrimination comes to pass, your handbook is proof that policies were disclosed and shows you handled the situation appropriately.
Without an employee handbook, there is no way to affirmatively prove that every provision that would otherwise have been included was communicated to the employee. Not creating an employee handbook that is given to all employees creates unnecessary risk for you and your business.
All handbooks should include at least these items:
At-will employment provision. In most circumstances, employment is at will, meaning the employee can be dismissed for any reason that is not discriminatory. For example, if you wish to dismiss an employee based on how they bake bread at your bakery, this provision would cover that dismissal, and the employee would be on notice that there is no guaranteed compensation beyond time worked.
Equal opportunity statement. It’s important that your business make clear that it is a place that is welcoming for all, no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion. This reassures your employees and demonstrates your commitment to a workplace where an employee is judged only on their work product.
Complaints. Ensuring you have a clear way to handle complaints can provide your employees clarity and give you protection from false allegations if you reach a decision not in their favor.
Creating an employee handbook isn’t easy, especially for a small business. But it is a vital part of making sure your business is protected. If you’d like to learn more about how your employee handbook relates to insurance, reach out. I’m here to help, and I’m just a call or email away.