smb-tech-trendsIf you don’t have an employee handbook, it may be time to write one. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) (now celebrating its 70th Birthday by the way) provides three good reasons why an employee handbook is of value to your small business.

Top of the list is the process itself, the NFIB advises. Considering the demands on your time running your business – whether it’s in the office or on the road with the help of today’s mobile devices —  you may not have enough time to focus on all of your employee policies. Going through the process of writing your employee handbook helps you better manage your team and determine the best way to deal with potential issues that may come up.

An employee handbook also can help to motivate your team since they know what your small business expects of them and what it has to offer in terms of vacation and sick time, remote working, training, bonuses and so forth.

And finally, there’s the practical aspect of avoiding legal issues. A precisely written document on policies with disclosures can avoid misunderstandings that may lead to lawsuits.

Cover these topics

generic manuals.employeesAmong the topics generally covered in an employee handbooks are:

Hiring practices: Federal laws require that your small business comply with equal opportunity laws that prohibit discrimination as well as ensure a workplace is free from harassment. Include in your employee handbook a section that covers these laws and requirements for employee compliance.

Pay: In addition to how and when you pay your employees, you also want to clarify that as the employer you take out federal and state required deductions. You also should spell out any policies regarding performance reviews, promotions, bonuses and how you classify employees – full, part time, seasonal, etc.

Benefits: In addition to sick leave and vacation, include other benefit plans such as 401(k), stock options, tuition reimbursement, sabbaticals, etc.

Conduct:  Your small business code of conduct defines what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. It is a reminder to your employees of what you expect of them and that their actions – even demeanor and appearance – will affect their position in your organization.

Safety and Security: This section should include your adherence with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Also include policies on coming to work as it relates to bad weather or hazardous conditions as well as security surrounding equipment that needs to be locked when not in use.

Equipment:  Increasingly companies are incorporating Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) policies into the business. Your employee handbook can discuss what mobile devices are acceptable and policies to secure company information.  Security policies also should cover the use of desktop computers, faxes or printers in the office.

There are other issues you may want to consider such as a confidentiality agreement or a section on media relations explaining who in your small business is authorized to talk to the press.

If you need help writing your handbook, the NFIB provides a Model Employee Handbook for Small Business. Small Business Notes also provides an Employee Handbook template.  You can find others online.

Speaking of online, consider making your employee handbook available online on your internal website. To avoid legal issues, Business Management, suggests you format it so employees can access the disclaimer and acknowledgement forms before reading the web version. Also require employees to log in using their passwords to protect your company information from outsiders. Once online, employee can access the employee handbook anytime they have a question from their desktop or mobile device.

Suggested reading: How to help new employees get onboard at your small business