The Employee Handbook

An employee handbook is a manual for employees to be guided on what to expect from the company they work for. The manual also outlines what is expected from them as employees.

It must be emphasised that it is only a guideline and thus, it is not intended to cover every situation that the employee may come across during the course of his/her duties.  However, it is necessary and important that certain policies, procedures, and practices are included in the manual. The manual does provide a way of reinforcing company policies. It is not, however, a contract of employment.

The employee handbook should be seen as a communication tool which provides consistency to all employees. It may be available in-house on the company’s intranet or in hard copy or in both ways. It is totally up to the company which communication tool to adopt. What is important is that the employees have proper access to it and do get to read and understand it.

The writing style

This brings us to the writing style. It must be straight-forward and kept simple to ensure the policies are properly understood by everyone, and no one can revert saying it is unclear or subject to interpretation (the latter is currently the most common excuse being used).

The structure

There is an accepted structure to the employee handbook. This following structure is commonly used.

In the first part of the handbook one may find:

  • an introduction to the company,
  • a brief history of the company,
  • its mission statement or goals,
  • the board setup and the organisation structure (clearly identifying the board members and the senior management); and
  • and the main products and services it offers.

General information related to how the handbook is to be used, how often the handbook is updated, and who and where to contact regarding queries are also to be included in this part.

The policies

The second part is the bulk of the handbook, that is the company’s policies and possibly also the procedures.  If the latter are not included, it is paramount that staff have the necessary information on where to access the procedures related to the policies.

  • Recruitment, probation and induction policies, including equal opportunities and non-discrimination policies
  • Vacation, sick and other leave entitlements and related procedures on how to request and authorize leave
  • Working hours, overtime, flexible working arrangements (if any)
  • How employees’ performance is assessed and what should be done if an employee has a performance issue
  • Compensation and reward schemes – not necessarily providing the figures but the policy that the company adopts
  • Health and safety policies
  • Code of conduct policies, including dress code and appearance as well as what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour
  • Communications policy including what is acceptable in terms of use of internet, social media and e-mail
  • Training and development opportunities and policies related to such opportunities
  • Discipline and grievance policies and procedures
  • Termination of employment, notice periods and what procedures is followed up by the company if they decide to terminate employment (or are dismissed)

Employees are to sign a declaration confirming that they have read and understood the content and implications of the handbook.  This is usually inserted in the handbook and placed in the last section. HR are to collect and keep on file each and every declaration.

Indeed, it might sound like a complex exercise requiring a lot of work.  In practical terms, the handbook should not be more than 40 pages long. If this still seems like a lot, then I do recommend that you only include the most important policies, possibly summarizing each policy in a clear and coherent manner.

The review

The handbook must be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that that no policies or employment laws have changed. Any amendments to policies should be updated in the handbook,  but should be communicated separately. Any legislative changes related to employment should be included in the handbook as soon as the legislation becomes law.

SurgeAdvisory assists companies in the writing of policies and procedures as well as in designing employee handbooks. For more information, please contact us on [email protected].