What is an Employee Handbook?
An employee handbook is a comprehensive document a company provides to its employees that outlines the organisation’s policies, procedures, and ways of working.
Traditionally, every new hire at a given organisation would receive a printed copy of the employee handbook on their first day of work. These days, however, it’s becoming more common for employee handbooks to exist entirely online, especially as more companies shift from a traditional work environment to more flexible arrangements like hybrid work and remote work agreements.
An effective employee handbook serves as a valuable manual and reference guide for employees and helps establish clear expectations, reduce misunderstandings, and promote a positive and compliant work environment.
What kind of information should be included in an employee handbook?
A company’s employee handbook should be an easily accessed, ultimate resource for any frequently asked questions from workers.
Welcome and onboarding
New workers are often excited and nervous when they start a new job. Including a friendly welcome section in your employee handbook can help them feel more at ease and comfortable in their new work environment.
This section might include typical onboarding information and expectations for the first day, ‘things to know’, and details about the team and how you work together, be it in-person or remotely.
Employment terms and legal compliance
An employee handbook should also outline the basic terms and conditions of employment, such as any HRIS system in place that employees should use, expected work hours, remote or hybrid work policies, paid time off and leave policies, and so on.
It’s important to note that when employing a global workforce, some of the information in this section of the employee handbook should include items relevant for every jurisdiction when the company has employees. To ensure you remain fully compliant in every jurisdiction where you employ workers, and to ensure your team understands their rights as employees and their own country-specific benefit structures, the more detail you have in this section, the better.
Company culture and communication expectations
A company handbook often includes information about the company's mission, values, code of conduct, ethics, and culture. It may describe your organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, employee development, and other aspects of workplace culture.
This is an excellent area to mention how your team communicates, what information can be shared asynchronously, and when and how your team meets and schedules gatherings. You should also outline clear expectations for how to use company email, chat platforms like Slack, and, if applicable, social media or other public-facing accounts.
IT and security expectations
Data privacy, both for your workers and for the company, is paramount. Your company should have straightforward policies and systems on how to protect your company’s hardware and digital data.
This might include stipulations on whether or not connecting to public wifi is restricted, from where employees may choose to work, or how information is passed and shared.
Employee rights and legal compliances
Your handbook should inform your employees about their rights, including the right to a safe and healthy workplace, privacy, and the right to be free from discrimination and harassment.
Employee handbooks are also used to communicate a company's commitment to compliance with employment laws and regulations. It may include sections explaining other legal obligations, such as how to report workplace issues or grievances.
Again, as employee rights and legal compliance regulations can differ greatly from country to country, it’s important that your employees are able to find and easily access information that pertains to where they are legally employed. This means that your handbook should outline details specific to each country where you employ workers.
Basic information about employee benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and other perks, is often included in employee handbooks. This section may explain eligibility criteria and enrollment processes.
If you employ workers that are privy to additional flexible benefits or country-specific benefits such as the UK’s cycle-to-work scheme, those details should be mentioned. Every employee should have a good understanding of the benefits available and how to take advantage of them.
Human resources policies
Your employee handbook should include an HR section outlining the typical employee review process, important contact details for team members, and any other HR-specific information that otherwise has no ‘home’ in the other sections of your handbook.
How often should an employee manual be updated?
An employee handbook should be viewed as a ‘living document’ by everyone in the organisation, meaning it is never fully ‘finished’ or complete.
The handbook should be revised regularly to ensure policies are kept up-to-date, especially those concerning legal compliance related to specific jurisdictions. Both legislation changes and shifts within the company may affect the relevance of the handbook’s contents.
Get the help you need with compliance for your handbook
Having worked with hundreds of organisations around the world, we know well a good employee handbook when we see one. While Boundless does not specialise in building and maintaining employee handbooks, we can help your organisation with inspiration and ensure you cover all compliance aspects in your handbook.
Speak to one of our experts to get started.