Why Small Businesses Should have an Employee Handbook

Mark LewisMany small businesses rarely think about having an Employee Handbook and yet others shy away from them because there are more important things to do, they don’t have the time or it’s not a priority.  Who wants to put together the do’s and don’ts for their employees?  Shouldn’t they just know what to do?  You could say small organizations are intimated by the work that goes into putting an employee handbook together but there are potential dangers of NOT having one.  Let me review several good reasons why entrepreneurs and small businesses should have an employee handbook.

1)    Handbooks Set Employee Expectations.  The reason why a large number of lawsuits occur is because employers and employees operate under a different set of expectations.  Employee handbooks allow you to clearly set forth everything from job responsibilities to disciplinary procedures, thus keeping employee and employer expectations consistent, so there are little or no misunderstandings.  Employees are willing to accept most things associated with their work if they know about it before it becomes a problem.  And yes, both the employee and employer should sign the employee handbook and each keep a copy.

2)    Handbooks Help Limit Legal Liability.  If you review most court cases, it is pretty clear that employers, who don’t have a sexual harassment policy and reporting procedure, will lose key legal defenses that are otherwise available under the law.  Employers will face great difficulty in defending themselves in almost every situation, from unemployment hearings to discrimination actions when there are no written policies available for review.

3)    Employee Discipline Is More Uniform.  A written disciplinary procedure in a handbook means that employers and employees alike know what to expect when a rule is violated, plus it is easy to defend.  One of the biggest causes of losing unemployment hearings and discrimination actions is when an employer treats similar situations in a different manner.  An employee handbook most always will eliminate this problem.

4)    A Handbook Communicates Important Information.  When you don’t have a written handbook, management often has to answer the same questions over and over again, thereby wasting time.  A handbook communicates important information that vastly reduces potential misunderstanding because it is written and signed by the employee.  Handbooks that include a recap of benefits, work times, dress codes, lunch rules, and other “everyday” issues saves time and energy for all.

5)    Handbooks Allow Employers to Make Decisions Ahead of Time.  Policy decisions concerning everything from dress codes, smoker’s rights, social media, personal blogs and privacy concerns in the workplace can all be carefully thought out, discussed, and decided upon before an issue actually arises.  This means that long range implications and other, more subtle, matters can be part of management’s decision-making process incorporated into the handbook.

There are many more good reasons to have an employee handbook, which have the potential to save you time and money in the event something goes wrong.  They protect you more than you can imagine and are relatively inexpensive to produce, yet can save you thousands of dollars over the long term.   If your business does not have one, you should seriously consider creating and implementing one for your company and its well-being.  And if you do have a handbook, make sure it has been updated because you do yourself no good if it does not reflect current business conditions (use of Internet, social media and much more).  Handbooks must be updated regularly to accurately reflect both the law and the actual working conditions in your place of employment.  And once it is complete, each employee should sign it and be provided a copy.  Finally, handbook policies that are not enforced, or enforced sporadically will not be helpful or protect you legally.  To learn more about why you should have an employee handbook, email me at mlewis@simmonswhite.com.  Here is to your success…….