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How Employee Handbooks Can Help Employers

Employee handbooks are not only a great way for employers to communicate with employees, but can also reduce some risks that employers face. They can even save employers money in the long-run! Some policies provide information about the operations of the business, while others communicate employee rights. The latter can help to ensure that required notices and information is communicated to employees. Some states offer increased protection to employers, but only if and when specific information has been communicated to employees. An employee handbook is a great way to get the message out there, and to prove that your employees have received and understand it.

There are a few policies that we believe ALL employee handbooks should include. We call these the essential policies of the handbook. They are the policies that protect employers and communicate important information to employees. While most of the information contained in these policies can be found on required labor posters, the employee handbook along with an acknowledgement signed by the employee, can provide proof that the communication was provided and received.

Here is a list of policies that should be included in every handbook:

  • At-Will employment

  • Immigration law applicable to all employees

  • Equal employment opportunity

  • Anti-retaliation and whistleblower protection

  • Workplace violence

  • Workers compensation

  • Sexual and other harassment

  • Employee grievances

States have their own legislation as well, and there are likely a handful of state specific regulations that you will want to communicate to your employees. For example, the state of Colorado has its own state specific requirements regarding meal and rest periods. Companies that have employees located in Colorado should include a policy that outlines what rest breaks and meal periods are provided to employees. In Florida, an employer may not be charged with unemployment if an employee is terminated during a "probationary period," but only if the employer notifies the employee in writing within the first 7 days of employment. An easy way to communicate state requirements is through an employee handbook.

Remember that an employee handbook should communicate in a manner that fits your business. Make it easy for your employees to read and understand. The easier it is for them to comprehend, the easier it will be to direct them to the handbook if they come to you with questions.

Lastly, please do yourself and your employees a favor. If you have a handbook, use it. The less consistent you are with the policies and procedures you've outlined in your handbook, the less valid the document becomes.

Review the entirety of your employee handbook on an annual basis to ensure that you have the most up to date information included, and update it as you see fit. It is becoming more and more common for states to pass legislation that goes into effect before the 1st of the year. Once updates are made, it is important to have your employees re-read the updated policies and acknowledge them.

As always, we love HR so you can love what you do. Please feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions.

simplyHR is an HR consulting firm located in Fort Collins, CO providing partnerships to companies in all 50 states. Our goal at simplyHR is to provide training, education, partnership, and resources to make Human Resources simple for small businesses.


The content of this website provides practical and HR best practice information and is not legal advice. simplyHR LLC does not provide legal advice or other professional services. While every effort is made to provide accurate and current information, laws change regularly and may vary depending on the state and/or the municipality your business operates in. The information provided from simplyHR is provided for informational purposes and is not a substitute for legal advice or your professional judgement. You should review applicable federal, state and municipality laws in your jurisdiction and consult with legal counsel as you deem necessary.