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Must-Have Items for an Employee Handbook


Once you have more than a handful of employees, it’s time to publish an employee handbook that lays out what you expect as an employer, your company’s commitment to employment, as well as safety laws and regulations.

An employee handbook can also protect you if you’re taken to court by a disgruntled employee or former employee.

A solid employee handbook will have these seven items:

Conduct Standards

Include your own standards, plus any legal or regulatory standards employees must meet, like:

  • Work hours
  • Attendance
  • Telecommuting
  • Flextime
  • Dress code
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol/substance abuse
  • Use of safety gear


List your employment policies, such as:

  • Eligibility for employment
  • Pre-employment background checks
  • Union information
  • Visa policies

Include a disclaimer acknowledging that the handbook doesn't constitute as a contract for employment, or provide any guarantees for future employment. Tell employees that you have a mutual right to terminate the employment arrangement, with or without notice, with or without reason, to the extent allowed by law.

Pay and Benefits

Explain how your company determines salaries and benefits, and that you’re legally obligated to deduct payroll and other taxes. State your commitment to comply with federal laws for the minimum wage, overtime, pay schedules and time records.

Describe your mandatory and optional benefits. Refer employees to summary plan descriptions for complete information on each optional benefit.

Performance Management

Describe the process you use to manage and develop talent. Discuss:

  • The process for posting job vacancies.
  • How employees can apply for other jobs.
  • Transfer and relocation policies.

Include information about:

  • How probationary periods work.
  • Resignation procedures.
  • Your process for disciplining and terminating employees.

Mention that the reasons you provide for terminating employment are not exhaustive, and that you have the right to terminate employees for reasons not described in your handbook.

Work Environment

State your commitment to equal employment opportunities, prohibiting discrimination and harassment, and making accommodations for employees with disabilities.

Describe your commitment to provide a safe and secure workplace, and to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration laws.

This section can also explain employee obligations to comply with these laws, such as a requirement to report all accidents, safety hazards and health-and-safety issues to company officials.

Confidentiality, Nondisclosure and Conflict of Interest

Explain your confidentiality policies for company, customer and other information. If you use nondisclosure or conflict of interest agreements, include information about them in this section.

Tell employees you have the right to read all employee communications. Explain your policy for using company equipment to email, surf the Internet and participate in social networking sites.

Finish up your handbook with some disclaimers, and a signature page.

The disclaimer page reminds employees that the current handbook replaces any previous version, and that all handbook policies are subject to change.

The signature page is where employees agree that you've given them a copy of the handbook, and that they agree to follow the policies. Collect the signature page, and add it to each employee’s personnel file. 

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Our firm provides the information in this e-newsletter for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.
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