If you’re wondering what should be included in an employee handbook, you’re not alone. Writing a legally compliant, informative and inclusive employee handbook can be tough, especially if you’re just hiring your very first employees.

Employee handbooks are a great resource. They introduce workers to your company, set expectations, and describe workplace policies in an easy-to-use format. Here’s what should be included in your own employee handbook—and how to make sure it’s legally compliant.

Essential topics must be covered in an employee handbook

Employee handbooks should include required state and federal policies. The government requires employers to comply with federal employment laws in five main categories. One step in complying with these laws is to include language about them in an employee handbook, covering worker rights like anti-discrimination laws, sexual harassment policies, and different types of leave.

These policies include:

  • Equal Employment and Anti-Discrimination Policy
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Policy (for companies with 50 or more employees)
  • Jury Duty Leave
  • Military Service Leave
  • Sexual Harassment Policy

In addition to required federal policies, an employee handbook should include state-specific policies for states where your employees work. State-specific employment policies can vary wildly among states. For example, California is known to have many worker protections, while Utah’s employment policies tend to favor businesses. The key to having a robust employee handbook is to ensure that it covers these legal requirements while also illustrating your workplace culture and expectations. It might sound simple, but the reality can be quite complex.

Tips for writing an employee handbook

Now that we’ve covered what should be included in an employee handbook. The best tip for writing an employee handbook is to make sure that it’s legally compliant. After making sure that your handbook complies with all state and federal employment laws, be sure to describe your workplace culture, policies, norms, benefits, and perks. Many companies hire a lawyer to draft their employee handbook. Unfortunately, having a lawyer write an employee handbook from scratch can be time-consuming and expensive, racking up far too many billable hours.

Fortunately, legal tools like SixFifty’s employee handbook generator can take the time and expense out of creating your own customized, legally compliant employee handbook.

What should not be included in an employee handbook?

There are a few things you should avoid including in your employee handbook. First, don’t include legalese. Unless you’re a law firm, chances are that your employees don’t have the tools to interpret it appropriately. Use clear, concise language to convey your legal obligations, rules, and expectations.

Second, it’s crucial that you avoid including policies, commentary, or other language which would jeopardize the legal compliance of your employee handbook. For example, if you add legally required disclosures and laws about overtime, but then include text which goes against those legal policies, you could open yourself up to significant liability.

Finally, don’t include detailed procedures for each position: make sure that your employee handbook is universally appropriate for all employees. If, for example, your employee handbook includes a writing style guide for employees, you would have to issue an entirely new handbook every time that style guide changes.

Ultimately, it’s important that your employee handbook complies with all local, state, and federal laws, while not actively jeopardizing your liability or making it harder for you to reissue handbooks as necessary. Whether you hire a lawyer to draft your employee handbook from scratch, or you use handy online legal tools like SixFifty, you need to make sure that your employee handbook doesn’t put your company at risk.

Why do companies need an employee handbook?

Generally speaking, companies need employee handbooks to limit their liability and set employee expectations from the beginning. When written properly, employee handbooks can be a great resource for new employees acclimating to the company, understanding how to take time off, and more. It’s also a smart way to protect yourself from liability. While you might not be required to have an employee handbook, it can help you describe standards and processes and protect yourself if employment claims should arise.

Create your own customized employee handbook with SixFifty

There’s no need to write your own employee handbook from scratch. SixFifty makes it easy!

Our legal software pairs real legal expertise with easy-to-use technology so you can create your own customized employee handbook in minutes. All you have to do is answer a few questions about your business and download the generated document. There’s never been a better way to cover what should be included in an employee handbook.

Interested in learning more? Schedule a product demo with SixFifty today!

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