When you hire new employees, they need to know your expectations, workplace policies and procedures. An employee handbook is invaluable—but how do you write one yourself? Are free templates a good option, or do you have to hire a lawyer to make sure your guide is enforceable?

From the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) policies to promotions, sick leave, and more, your employee handbook sets the tone for your company. Here’s what you need to know.

What is an Employee Handbook?

It sets workplace standards and policies from the beginning. Over time, you may need to modify the handbook when policies and procedures change.

The handbook should include information about your company, such as the company’s mission, purpose, values, goals and overall vision. If non-compete, non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements are necessary, the handbook can set guidelines for those policies.

It can also include information about employment status, compensation, benefits, paid time off, emergency policies, use of company property, attendance expectations, how an employee can access their personnel file, and other important information an employee would need to know.

The ideal employee handbook should set forth all the information and rules an employee needs to be successful in their job. It should include important state and federal employment policies, and be enforceable in whichever state the employee works. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

How Do I Write One?

Writing an employee handbook can be a monumental task, depending on your industry and whether you’re starting from scratch. You might wonder whether free employee handbook templates are a good idea—after all, it can be daunting to tackle this on your own.

While free templates can give you an idea of what an employee handbook should include, it’s not necessarily a good option. Your handbook needs to conform to employment law in the states where you hire. Free online templates are a problematic “one-size-fits-all” solution. Relying on a template could open your company up to liability.

On the other hand, lawyers are expensive, and writing a handbook from scratch could take hundreds of billable hours.

SixFifty offers a comprehensive employee handbook tool. Once you log into our intuitive user interface, simply answer a few questions about your company and what you’d like to include in your handbook. Our proprietary legal technology uses automation and real legal expertise to generate comprehensive, enforceable employee handbooks. After you download your handbook file, send it to your lawyer for review. It saves time and money for everyone—and you’ll know you have the right policies and procedures to protect the company and your employees.

Plus, because we update our documents regularly to address changes in the law, you’ll never be caught by surprise. Simply update the handbook according to the new changes, and distribute to your employees as needed.

Handbook Examples

There are dozens of great employee handbooks out there—some companies like Facebook go the extra mile and make theirs a visual delight. Others, like Hubspot, share their handbook online for anyone to review—a tactic that improves transparency and trust. Still others, such as Trello, use their own platform to house their handbook.

What all of these handbooks have in common is that they address company policies and expectations, in an easy-to-access, easy-to-read format. When an employee has a question, the handbook should provide the answer.

Here are some of the items your handbook should generally include:

  • A form for employees to sign, acknowledging the handbook and agreeing to the terms
  • Annual office closures
  • Anti-harassment policy
  • Anti-retaliation policy
  • Assessment process for promotions and raises
  • At-will nature of employment
  • Behavioral expectations (including dress code)
  • Benefits
  • Code of conduct
  • Company culture
  • Company’s mission statement
  • Discipline policy
  • Disclaimers
  • Equal employment opportunity policy
  • Family and medical leave policies for businesses with over 50 employees
  • General employment information
  • Paid vacation policy
  • Pay policies such as information on payday, overtime, meal policies and more
  • Process for filing a complaint
  • Review and promotion or raise policy
  • Safety and security
  • Sick leave policy
  • Standard operating hours
  • Welcome letter from the CEO or founder

Your employee handbook may feature different information and sections, depending on the nature of your business and industry.

Once you’ve decided on the content, with SixFifty’s employee handbook tool, and your lawyer has approved, you can add the flourishes and stylistic choices that will make your new hires excited to get started.

Because your employee handbook sets the tone for your employees, we’ll help you make sure it’s a great one. For more information about our employment tools or to schedule a demo, reach out to SixFifty today.

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