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7 Tips For A Solid Policy Manual

Posted by Leslie Ruhland on Oct 16, 2017 9:01:00 AM
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Your company's employee policy manual is a critical document for your business success. Yet it can be a challenge to create one that is both concise and sufficient.


While there are no federal or state laws requiring businesses to have a documented policy manual, it is highly recommended. This is because of the many laws that require employers to notify workers of certain workplace rights. Unfortunately, far too many employers choose not to have one.

Policy Manuals and the Law

The question often arises as to whether employee policy manuals, or handbooks, are required by law. According to CalChamber the state of California does not require employers to have a handbook, for example. However, if a manual or handbook is created then there are policies that must be included.

Certain policies are mandatory and must be included in your employee handbook. For example, California employers must have a written harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention policy. Including these policies clarifies for employees their rights and obligations, and protect you from potential liability.

In addition, CalChamber points out that while an employee handbook is a good tool for avoiding litigation by clarifying and publishing company policies, it can actually lead to potential lawsuits if not done correctly. Care must be taken to ensure that policies do not violate any federal or state laws or override the at-will employment relationship.

Additional Information Must Also Be Provided

In addition to the various mandatory policies, certain state and federal information must be communicated to employees either in an employee handbook or labor law posters posted in communal areas. Other information must be provided to employees at the time of hire or at certain points during the employment relationship.

Much of the information provided in a typical policy manual is dictated by existing labor laws and regulations. According to Human Resources expert Susan Heathfield,

Laws mandate employer actions such as overtime pay, minimum wage, meals and breaks, and jury duty. Other procedures and policies that an employer decides over time such as how to reimburse employee travel for work, paid time off, flexible work schedules and bereavement leave become confusing and difficult to apply and monitor if they have no central location.

Simply put, a company policy is a statement that defines a business's approach to workplace issues. The company policy manual should be a comprehensive explanation of the company's rules for employee conduct and it tells employees what is appropriate behavior in your workplace.

In addition, a solid policy manual will also document the company's actions on behalf of it's employees for topics such as vacation and paid sick days benefits, and so forth.

Far from being an administrative burden, manuals can be a huge benefit for businesses. An article from Inc. magazine notes that,

Experts say that small and mid-sized businesses can craft employee manuals that both protect them from litigation and put staff members at ease by spelling out in positive terms the company's policies.

In order to have an effective policy manual, the employer should take the time to identify what is important to the business, both in keeping the employees informed and happy, as well as accomplishing the business objectives of the company.

A company’s policy manual can be seen as a blueprint for its internal operations - a written guide to how the company interacts with employees and runs its business. A solid policy manual covers all aspects of what a business expects from employees, such as attendance, safety rules, legal compliance with employment laws, facilities management, and dress codes.

Policies are guidelines that define company rules and procedure, and the consequences for not following them. And policy manuals should be regularly reviewed and updated when necessary. 

employee rest and meal breaks guide

Policy Manual Basics

What types of information should be included in a sufficiently comprehensive policy manual, or handbook? The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) offers this advice:

At the very least, your employee handbook should contain these items:

  • Employment at-will disclaimer and statement on equal employment opportunity
  • Policy prohibiting unlawful discrimination and harassment
  • A section describing your policy for use of company property, privacy rules, and social media
  • A section on employment classification and overtime rules
  • A policy on family and medical leave (if you have 50 or more employees)
  • A section on safety
  • Disciplinary guidelines


In addition to detailing the relevant laws and regulations that an employer should document and clarify for workers, there are other good reasons to prepare a policy handbook for your company:

They detail the policies and procedures your employees are expected to follow on a daily basis and that are critical to the efficient operation of your business.

They can explain can clarify the compensation and benefits provided to your employees in exchange for their employment.

They provide access to all of your company's policies and rules to ensure that your managers and employees are on the same page, and to help executive staff ensure that management is consistent.

free california paid sick leave guide

7 Policy Manual Tips for A Solid Handbook

Here are seven tips for creating a solid policy manual that is both concise and comprehensive enough to provide sufficient and accurate information:

1. Who Will Write It

Establish what position, or positions, will be responsible for drafting and maintaining your policy manual. In many companies, this would be employees in your human resources staff. In smaller companies the senior managers may be responsible for drafting policies. 

2. Policy Compliance

Because company policies must comply with relevant legislation and regulations it’s a good idea to have them reviewed by an attorney or HR legal specialist.

3. Strive For Clarity

Avoid vague or ambiguous terms or concepts. For example, probationary periods for new employees, distinctions between part-time and full-time employees, and PTO versus vacation time and sick leave.

4. Social Media Use

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken the position that some social media use is a protected activity. Avoid generic policies regarding social media use by employees and consult with legal professionals regarding what current employment law allows.

5. Update As Needed

Have a process in place to update your policy manual periodically in order to keep up with changing laws. This could be a set time frame for an annual review and revision, or real time revisions when needed.

6. Compliance With State Laws

Be sure to adapt your handbook for your state's laws. This may require creating more than one version of the manual if you have employees in several states.

7. Know How You Will Enforce Policies

Don't forget to include policies for disciplinary processes you will use to enforce rules and policies. These processes must be thought out, documented and clearly communicated.

Keep Your Employees Informed and Your Company Protected

Company policies reinforce and clarify the standards expected of employees and help employers manage staff more effectively by defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace. And a policy manual that is comprehensive and up-to-date will provide the documentation for businesses faced with possible litigation arising from employee disputes.

If you have questions regarding this, or other HR issues and practices, let us help you in managing your HR needs, payroll processes, and staying on top of compliance demands. Get your Free HR On-Demand Tour to help you make an informed decision or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.

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Topics: policies and procedures, HR compliance, california labor law, labor law compliance, employee lawsuits, labor law, policy manuals

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