Human Resources, Uncategorized

Employee Handbook Checklist (What to Include and Not Include)


A well-written employee handbook is an asset to any organization. It clarifies your policies, procedures and employee expectations. Beyond the basics, it can also promote your company values, allowing your team to see how they benefit your organization.

Creating a handbook that engages your team can be challenging, as you must balance employee handbook compliance with creating something people will read. If you overwhelm your readers, they might miss crucial details. An employee handbook checklist is essential to ensure you provide the relevant information.

What Is an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook is a document that provides information on your organization’s policies, procedures, mission, values and history. It can include HR forms, employer standards and guidelines, information about company programs, and procedures employees can follow.

Your employee handbook should contain everything your team needs to know to be safe, productive and happy in your organization. It protects them from discrimination or unfair treatment and details your internal policies so they know what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

Employee handbooks are not required by law, but as an organization, you must provide information about workplace rights, leave policies and paid time off. Each handbook is unique to the organization and industry, but some standard employee handbook content includes the following:

  • Organizational culture
  • Policies and procedures
  • Employee rights
  • Benefits information
  • Mission statement and values
  • Dress code
  • HR information

Why Is an Employee Handbook Important?

Navigating the workplace can be challenging for new hires and experienced employees. If you’re wondering why you should have an employee handbook, remember it’s like a roadmap to navigating your organization. It leaves no ambiguity about procedures, acceptable behavior or your company culture.

An employee handbook has many significant benefits. If someone needs clarity on a specific action, they know where to look. It helps employees understand what your organization expects of them and how they should act within the company culture. It also makes your anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies clear and actionable. Hence, management knows how to proceed should there be any transgressions.

What to Include in an Employee Handbook

You can construct your handbook to reflect your company values and address issues specific to your industry. Your employee handbook can cover a range of subjects, but should at least handle the following elements:

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  • Company mission, vision and values: Your employee handbook is an excellent opportunity to communicate your company culture and vision. Outlining your company culture at the beginning of an employee’s journey can help them embrace company values.
  • Discrimination and harassment policies: Depending on your geographic location, having an anti-harassment and discrimination policy may be a legal requirement. You may also need to include specific regulations. Having an HR consultant review your policy can help you comply with the relevant regulations.
  • Legal requirements: Your employees must understand their rights in the workplace. Include federal and local laws on mandatory topics such as family medical leave, workers’ compensation, disability and other legal requirements.
  • Code of conduct: A detailed code of conduct clarifies your expectations and gives employees critical information on how to behave in the workplace. It can cover various policies, including attendance, work hours, applying for time off and disciplinary procedures.
  • Dress code: If you have a company dress code, include it in your handbook so your employees understand what your business expects regarding their dress and if there are any exceptions, like casual Fridays.
  • Communications policy: A communication policy clarifies what employees can do with company cell phones or laptops, personal calls and social media postings.
  • Compensation and benefits information: Your handbook can provide your employees with information on all the benefits you offer them. Include any information on benefits outside legal requirements.
  • Promotion requirements: Use your handbook to communicate the requirements and any information about the annual review process.
  • New hire and offboarding procedures: Provide all new hires with the information they need to succeed in your employee handbook. Also, outline offboarding processes for if they leave or you terminate their employment.
  • Complaints procedures: Give your employees a voice by including the guidelines they must follow to make complaints.
  • Employee acknowledgment: Include a short statement where employees sign to acknowledge they’ve read and agreed to your policies and procedures. Keep a copy of this document in your employee’s personnel file.

In some cases, you may need to provide employee handbook training to ensure your employees understand their work parameters and how to report unethical behavior. Training employees on your handbook can also enhance your company culture, as everyone learns about your organization and understands where they fit.

What Not to Include in an Employee Handbook

While your employee handbook serves an essential purpose, there are some things it shouldn’t cover, including the following:

  • A contract: Protect your organization and employees by ensuring your handbook is not a contract. Any confusion on this point and employees could sue your business for perceived breaches. Make your disclaimer that your handbook isn’t a legal contract clear to avoid confusion.
  • Restrictive covenants: As your handbook is not a contract, avoid any contractual restrictions like nondisclosure and noncompete agreements.
  • Unnecessary information: Making your handbook too long alienates employees. Many may not read it. Remember, your handbook’s purpose is to convey necessary information.
  • Section 7 infringements: The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) prohibits organizations from engaging in protected activity regarding their employment terms and conditions. For example, employers cannot deny employees from discussing their employment terms, such as benefits and compensation. Ensure that nothing in your handbook infringes employees’ section 7 rights.
  • Health and welfare benefits: Keep this information in a separate document so you can update it as needed.
  • Procedures, operations and job descriptions: There is nothing wrong with including this information in your handbook, but every time these change, you would have to incur the unnecessary expense of reprinting an updated version.

Employee Handbook FAQ

There’s a lot to consider when creating an employee handbook. At Exude, we understand how important it is to provide employees with all the information they need to succeed at your organization. We’ve answered some frequently asked questions to streamline the process for you:

When Should You Update Your Employee Handbook?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Ideally, you would review your employee handbook annually and make relevant updates as they arise.

How Do You Review an Employee Handbook?

Review your handbook one section at a time and ensure all your policies and procedures align with company values. Confirm that your employees follow the outlined protocols and communicate any updates to your employees as soon as possible.

How Much Does an Employee Handbook Cost?

The cost of your handbook depends on how you choose to create it. If you have a law firm draft the contents, it will be more expensive. You can also have an HR specialist draft, update or review your work for a reasonable fee.

Have Your Employee Handbook Reviewed by Experts

Your employee handbook should be the go-to document for every organization member. While you have a certain latitude when creating one, you must still work within specific legal and regulatory parameters. An expert HR consultant will confirm whether your policies comply with the law and that you’ve covered all eventualities in your document. They can also help you phrase your handbook to foster engagement and create a strong company culture.

Your employee handbook can be a practical document, instrumental in shaping every element of the employee experience. Having it reviewed by experts means it can perform as intended and enhance your team’s experiences with your organization.

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Talk to Exude Human Capital for Employee Handbook Creation and Management

Every organization wants a handbook that communicates its values and vision and gives employees the best chance of happiness and success. Creating an effective handbook can be complex and time-consuming, and any errors could result in noncompliance. Exude can help you make the ideal employee handbook for your organization. Our intentional approach aligns the language and position of your handbook to your culture, creating an end product truly reflective of who you are as a business.

Our mission is to support yours, so feel free to reach out to us to learn more about how Exude can help you create a compliant and engaging employee handbook today.