What should be in an employee handbook for a small business?
From outlining core values to remuneration and the benefits structure, here are 12 answers to the question, “What should be in an employee handbook for a small business?”
- Core Values and Team Norms
- Employee Code of Conduct
- Outline of Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
- Business Policies On Employee Discrimination
- PTO and Special Leaves
- Company Mission and Values
- Documented Legal Procedures
- Company Culture Expectations
- Sexual Harassment Policy for Safety of Employees.
- Confidential Company Information
- Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines
- Remuneration and Benefits Structure
Core Values and Team Norms
Every organization should codify its culture with values and norms. Core values are the 3-5 most important traits to the success of the organization. Norms create clarity about what the values look like in terms of behaviors. Collectively, these values and norms describe an ideal candidate on their best day. In addition to being included in the employee handbook, these should be included in the organization’s recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, recognition, and performance evaluation processes.
Brian Stinson, Culture Engineer, The PEAK Fleet
Employee Code of Conduct
Every business expects its employees to conduct themselves in a professional manner. While most have the usual codes and ethics related to this aspect of their workforce, it is quite possible that some small businesses may have a set of rules that are indeed quite different.
These could range from a dress code or stricter disciplinary policies to mandatory participation in community programs or obligatory attendance in business and social events. Whatever rules, guidelines, and procedures the employees are required to follow, one can find in their handbook.
More importantly, the details under this section tell an employee about actions associated with indiscipline, unethical behavior, or transgressions, points that may come in handy to know and protect one’s rights should such an event occur.
Riley Beam, Managing Attorney, Douglas R. Beam, P.A.
Outline of Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
A small business employee handbook should include a section that outlines your company’s commitment to diversity. This section should include details about the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion training, as well as its efforts to promote inclusive hiring practices. It should also include a statement of commitment to diversity and inclusion as core values of your organization.
Matthew Ramirez, CEO, Rephrasely
Business Policies On Employee Discrimination
Even in a small business, employees have certain rights as well as responsibilities when it comes to the management’s behavior. While it is the duty and moral responsibility of the owner as well as the existing team of employees to ensure that new workers are made aware of their rights and responsibilities related to discriminatory behavior, it is usually a handbook that provides all the crucial details. Some businesses may have a zero-tolerance policy associated with certain offenses or breaches, while others may have a system that involves a few warnings before action is taken. To understand their rights, but more importantly, to gain insight into their responsibilities as new employees, an employee handbook goes a long way in providing essential information.
Azmaira Maker, Ph.D., Founding Director, Aspiring Families
PTO and Special Leaves
Whether it’s a start-up or a small business, it’s wise to address the healthy parameters of a paid time off policy, including any special leave(s) that are extended to vested members of the organization. Even if there are no set number of days allotted to members, the business needs to define the leave which adheres to their operational and legal protocols – given the nature of the business and where they are located (country, state, county).
This crafted framework serves as a reference when new and existing members of the business encounter rare/sensitive circumstances which challenge them to work or step away from their role for situational reasons. This vetted principle in the handbook can also serve as a guide when monitoring any abuse of PTO and leaves, especially in environments when there’s unlimited leave extended to professionals. Most professionals working in such environments exercise leave in a mature manner; to the contrary, there exist members who abuse such privileges.
Sasha Laghonh, Founder, Sasha Talks
Company Mission and Values
The company’s mission and values should be one of the first things that small business leaders look to include in their employee handbook. Because they are so important, small businesses should make their mission and values visible and easy to find by including them in their employee handbook. Employers can avoid potential compliance issues by dedicating a section of the employee handbook to various employment laws (the same goes for company policies).
Samantha Odo, Real Estate Expert & Chief Operating Officer, Precondo
Documented Legal Procedures
The possibility of facing lawsuits for everything from sexual harassment to wrongful termination increases as your company expands. You may have an additional layer of legal protection if you have a documented policy regarding these subjects. You might even need written policies in place by law, depending on where your company is located. For instance, California mandates that businesses have internal reporting processes and rules involving workplace harassment.
You can think about incorporating the following legal policies in the employee handbook: policies against harassment and discrimination, non-disclosure contracts, non-compete clauses, intellectual property laws and regulations, procedures for arbitrating disputes, and privacy regulations.
Seth Larson, Owner/CEO, 1st Key Homebuyers
Company Culture Expectations
One of the most important aspects of a successful small business is its company culture. Aspects of this should be outlined in the company’s vision and team qualities. For instance, are you looking for team members who always look to engage, upskill, or share knowledge? Then these should be included in your handbook.
Jarir Mallah, HR Specialist, Ling App
Sexual Harassment Policy for Safety of Employees
There is always some set of general policies that every company includes in its employee handbook. However, a Sexual Harassment Policy is a policy that most companies, both big and small, need to create. This is to assure their employees that the organization cares for their safety and to ensure that they feel safe at the workplace, where they will be spending most of their day. Many states have made it compulsory for employers to include this policy, but even without compulsion, this policy should be considered.
The handbook should mention what the employees can consider as sexual harassment so that they are clear about what requires the company to take action. Giving examples is great because it makes it easier for employees to identify sexual harassment, if a similar incident has happened to them, inside the premises. It should include the procedure to report sexual harassment and the disciplinary actions that would be taken, which will be decided based on the nature of the offense.
Janie Doyle, Marketing Director, SC Vehicle Hire
Confidential Company Information
At a small business, it is essential to protect confidential company information, so employees must be aware of the expected behavior regarding this sensitive data. An employee handbook should explain the importance of maintaining confidentiality and the consequences of disclosing confidential information without management approval. It can also provide additional guidance on using encrypted systems when sharing or storing confidential information and when and to whom they can disclose such things. Furthermore, a monitoring system may also be necessary to ensure that confidential information remains secure. Together, these measures will ensure that confidential company information is kept safe and secure for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Jamie Irwin, Director, Straight Up Search
Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines
The health and safety of employees is the most important priority for any small business. Potential risks to employee safety will often vary from one business to another, and typically they will be determined by the kind of industry you are operating in. However, it is essential for your business to provide clear guidelines to ensure the safety of each worker. This includes policies on handling hazardous materials, tips on wearing proper work gear, proper equipment use, and anything else you may deem necessary for employees’ overall safety. Also, make sure you include guidelines on what to do in case of accidents and health emergencies in the workplace. This may include first-aid tips and guidelines on who to call for medical assistance.
Logan Nguyen, Co-Founder, MIDSS
Remuneration and Benefits Structure
The remuneration and benefits structure for employees is complicated and consists of several crucial details that could affect not just the wages they take home but also their taxation, investment, and other associated factors. Small business owners or teams can seldom cover all these details in a single sitting, and the most these teams can do is offer workers a brief overview during the interview or onboarding process. This is where the details provided in an employee handbook prove beneficial, offering new employees a detailed peek into the remuneration and benefits structure provided by the business as well as other monetary details they may need to be aware of.
Brendan McGreevy, Head of Strategy, Affinda
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