Compliance/Best Practices Employment Law Legal Topics

7 Steps to Preparing an Employee Handbook

A well-crafted employee handbook encompasses virtually the entire range of legal issues arising in the workplace. Because every business has its own particular culture, values, and personnel practices, no single set of inclusions will suffice for all company handbooks. It’s often up to attorneys to draft an employee handbook that will meet a business’ unique needs.

When drafting an employee handbook, attorneys should take the following preliminary steps:

  1. Gather all existing memoranda and other written policies on the terms and conditions of employment;
  2. Determine how many employees there are, as well as where the employer operates, to determine which laws apply;
  3. Question the employer about any unwritten policies or procedures (e.g., absenteeism, rules of conduct, safety practices, personnel practices);
  4. Gather copies of all employee benefit plans;
  5. Meet with the employer’s managers, including human resources, payroll, and benefits administration, to discuss the need for any new policies or the potential need for policies in the future;
  6. Gather proposed language for mandatory or recommended policies that are not already in effect;
  7. Review all policies for legal compliance.

When it comes to actually drafting an employee handbook, keep in mind that a long handbook that goes unread doesn’t have much value. Make it only as long as necessary to accomplish its purpose, i.e., as short as possible.

Also, write it in clear, everyday English, or whatever language is appropriate for the workforce. Stay away from legalese whenever possible, even when drafting policies on matters regulated by law.

For everything you need to know about employee handbooks, including a checklist of policies to consider for inclusion, go to CEB’s Advising California Employers and Employees, chap 10. For checklists and sample forms relating to employee handbooks, check out CEB’s new book Drafting Employment Documents for California Employers, chap 9, available at a prepublication discount until October 31, 2011.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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