When your company hires employees, it’s important to communicate your policies, best practices, and standards from the beginning. Creating an employee handbook ensures that all of this helpful information is in one place, but can you use an employee handbook template vs a custom one?

Depending on where your company and employees are located, the contents of your handbook may vary, according to state employment laws. That’s why many businesses look for an employee handbook template—a template can cut down on the time and money you initially spend, but there are significant drawbacks. Using a one-size-fits-all template runs the risk of violating state law. Furthermore, templates are not specifically tailored to your company’s needs.

Here’s what you need to know about creating your own employee handbook, and how SixFifty’s software can help you stay compliant without breaking the bank.

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is, essentially, a guide to working at your company. It provides new hires with the information they need to succeed at your business. A legally compliant employee handbook protects employers against discrimination and related claims. It also explains these policies and procedures to your workers, so they know what to expect when an issue arises.

What’s included in an employee handbook?

Employee handbooks should be specifically tailored to your industry, company size, employee location, and more. Most employee handbooks include but are not limited to:

  • Company policies and procedures
  • Company culture, mission statement and values
  • HR information
  • Grievance policies
  • Employee rights and legal policies
  • Information about benefits
  • Dress codes

Every company needs to determine which federal employment laws apply to their company, and include those provisions. For example, anti-discrimination provisions in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 only apply to private employers who have more than 15 workers, and Family and Medical Leave Act protections only apply to employers with 50 or more workers.

In addition to federal employment laws, states may have additional laws and obligations. For example, New York has 13 state-specific policies that must be included in or complied with in every New York employee handbook. Typically, state laws cover issues like leave, minimum wage, overtime and protected classes.

Finally, employers need to ensure that their policies comply with local rules. Certain large cities or counties, like Seattle, have additional worker protections and policies. Even if your company is located elsewhere, employee handbooks need to be tailored to where your employees live and work.

Are employee handbooks required by law?

State laws may vary, and there’s no federal requirement that employers must have an employee handbook. For example, California does not require employers to create a handbook—but if they do, it must comply with federal, state and local laws.

However, hiring employees without creating a handbook is irresponsible. Without clearly defined policies, you’re leaving your company open to significant liability. Not only does it make it difficult to onboard new employees and set expectations, but it could work against you if an employee claim arises. Practically speaking, you should have an employee handbook before you hire your first employee.

Remember, handbooks can be updated over time. As your company grows and changes, your policies and legal obligations will also change—but it’s important to start as you intend to continue. Creating an employee handbook will ensure that your company stays on top of its rights and obligations as it grows.

How to write an employee handbook

There are several different ways you can write an employee handbook. First, you can have your lawyers or in-house legal team create a handbook from scratch. For many newer businesses, this is cost- and time-prohibitive. Even established companies may not want to divert their legal team’s attention to handbooks, especially if there are more pressing issues to address.

Some companies use one-size-fits-all employee handbook templates, which are often not compliant with all federal, state, and local obligations. If you rely on a template, you’ll still need to do significant research and editing to be compliant.

The best solution: use SixFifty’s employee handbook generator. Our software pairs real legal expertise with easy-to-use technology to automatically generate a compliant handbook, no matter where your employees are located. Just answer a few questions about your company and employees, then download your new handbook and have your lawyer review. Best of all, you’ll be notified when the law changes and your handbooks need to be regenerated. It’s the perfect middle ground between having a lawyer draft a handbook and using a generic template.

Discover the fastest way to create an employee handbook with SixFifty

Creating an employee handbook doesn’t have to come with a high cost and time commitment. SixFifty’s employee handbook creator ensures that your company is compliant with all federal, state, and local laws. It’s easier than ever to create and update handbooks as needed.

For more information about generating your own employee handbooks, reach out and schedule a product demo today!

Looking for the employee handbook requirements for your state? View our interactive map for required employee handbook policies by state.