Small Business and Employee Handbooks
Updated: Apr 4
As a small business owner, hiring employees is a significant milestone in the growth of your business. Whether you are hiring your first employee or expanding your team, it is essential to create an employee handbook. An employee handbook is a valuable tool for setting expectations, outlining policies, and providing guidance to your employees. However, it is important to note that an employee handbook should not be something that you download from the internet. Instead, it should be drafted by an attorney who specializes in business or employment law.
Why is an Employee Handbook Important?
An employee handbook serves as a reference guide for your employees. It outlines your company's policies, procedures, and expectations. It is a valuable tool for setting expectations and providing guidance to your employees. A well-drafted employee handbook can help to:
Establish clear expectations: Your employees will know what is expected of them in terms of their performance, behavior, and conduct. This can help to reduce confusion and misunderstandings, which can lead to a more productive work environment.
Ensure consistency: An employee handbook can help to ensure that policies and procedures are applied consistently across the organization. This can help to prevent discrimination or favoritism, which can lead to legal issues.
Provide legal protection: An employee handbook can provide legal protection for your business. It can outline your company's policies regarding harassment, discrimination, and other legal issues. This can help to protect your business from legal liability in the event of a lawsuit.
Improve communication: An employee handbook can improve communication between management and employees. It can provide a platform for employees to ask questions, provide feedback, and voice concerns.
What's In an Employee Handbook
An employment handbook typically includes several standard clauses that outline company policies, procedures, and expectations. Here are some of the typical clauses that can be found in an employee handbook:
Introduction: This section provides a brief overview of the handbook and outlines its purpose, scope, and applicability.
Employment Policies: This section outlines the company's employment policies, such as the hiring process, job classifications, and termination policies.
Code of Conduct: This section outlines the company's expectations for employee behavior and conduct, including dress code, attendance, and workplace safety.
Compensation and Benefits: This section outlines the company's compensation and benefits policies, such as salaries, bonuses, health insurance, and retirement plans.
Time Off Policies: This section outlines the company's policies regarding time off, including vacation, sick leave, and holidays.
Performance Expectations: This section outlines the company's performance expectations, including job responsibilities, performance standards, and evaluations.
Harassment and Discrimination Policies: This section outlines the company's policies on harassment and discrimination, including how to report incidents and the consequences of violating the policies.
Confidentiality and Intellectual Property: This section outlines the company's policies regarding confidential information and intellectual property.
Employee Discipline: This section outlines the company's disciplinary policies and procedures, including the steps that will be taken in case of misconduct or violation of company policies.
Acknowledgment: This section requires employees to sign and acknowledge that they have received, read, and understood the policies outlined in the handbook.
Why Should an Attorney Draft Your Employee Handbook?
While there are many resources available online for drafting an employee handbook, it is important to remember that each business is unique. A one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for an employee handbook. An attorney who specializes in employment law can help to ensure that your employee handbook is tailored to your business's specific needs.
Legal Expertise: An attorney who specializes in employment law has the knowledge and experience necessary to draft an employee handbook that complies with federal and state employment laws. This can help to protect your business from legal liability.
Customization: An attorney can customize your employee handbook to reflect the unique needs of your business. They can help you to identify policies and procedures that are specific to your industry and your company culture.
Up-to-Date: Employment laws are constantly changing, and it can be challenging for a small business owner to keep up with these changes. An attorney can ensure that your employee handbook is up-to-date with the latest legal requirements.
Consistency: An attorney can help to ensure that the language in your employee handbook is consistent with the language used in other employment-related documents such as job descriptions, employment contracts, and performance reviews.
Protection: An attorney-drafted employee handbook can provide legal protection for your business in the event of a lawsuit. It can demonstrate that your business has taken reasonable steps to prevent harassment, discrimination, and other legal issues.
Creating an employee handbook is an essential step in hiring employees for your small business. It is a valuable tool for setting expectations, outlining policies, and providing guidance to your employees. However, it is important to remember that an employee handbook should not be something that you download from the internet. Instead, it should be drafted by an attorney who specializes in employment law. An attorney-drafted employee handbook can provide legal protection for your business and ensure that your policies and procedures are tailored to your business's specific needs.
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As with any legal issue, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel before making any decisions about how to respond to a subpoena or whether to challenge one - even if you believe that compliance is not required. Because each situation is different, it may be impossible for this article to address all issues raised by every situation encountered in responding to a subpoena. The information below can give you guidance regarding some common issues related to subpoenas, but you should consult with an attorney before taking any actions (or refraining from acts) based on these suggestions. Separately, this post will focus on New Jersey law. If you receive a subpoena in a state other than New Jersey you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in your state as certain rules differ in other states.