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8 Items To Include In An Employee Handbook

Company leadership team discussing employee handbook updates in a meeting.


An employee handbook outlines an organization's policies, procedures, and expectations. This guide is essential for establishing clear guidelines and cultivating a positive work environment. Find out the top eight items that must be included in an employee handbook, along with the typical categories you may want to have in these manuals. If you would like to learn more about employer defense and employment law issues, please get in touch with Schwab & Gasparini by calling (315) 422-1333 (Syracuse), Albany Office (518) 591-4664 (Albany), White Plains Office (914) 304-4353 (White Plains) or (914) 304-4353 (Hudson Valley) to schedule an appointment.


What Are the Key Items in an Employee Handbook?

The typical employee handbook encompasses several distinct components, from outlining responsibilities to detailing procedures. Here are the top sections to include:

Introduction to the Company

Before the employee reads the finer details of company policy, there should be a welcoming message from the upper management level. A welcome message should convey the business's culture, mission, and goals. Some handbooks also provide an outline of the company's hierarchy and structure. A strong welcome message will typically emphasize the new employee's role in the organization's success. 

Employment Policies

One of the most important sections is the employment policies. Within these areas, companies will want to outline a few important policies involving:

  • Employment eligibility

  • Non-discrimination

  • Equal opportunities

  • Anti-harassment

This section ensures everyone understands their responsibilities and rights and establishes the business's commitment to an inclusive and safe workplace. Employment classification, the hiring process, probationary periods, and any other legal specifications pertaining to employment can be outlined in this area. 

Code of Conduct

All employees will need to know the code of conduct. This code should establish approaches to workplace behavior and set the ground rules for a positive work culture. This section outlines expectations for all employees, covering everything from professional ethics to company dress code. Some employers may even choose to address social media usage and customer interaction guidelines. 

Compensation and Benefits

The compensation structure can include salary, wages, incentives, and bonuses. This section should also detail a few employee benefits, such as health insurance, vacation and leave policies, and retirement plans. This area will also need to cover how employees achieve eligibility for raises, performance-based incentives, and other types of benefits. 

Work Schedule and Attendance

All companies must establish clear guidelines on attendance, work schedules, and punctuality. Setting clear expectations here helps ensure that employees know what is expected of them. This section can include essential information about timekeeping procedures, reporting absences, regular working hours, and scheduled breaks. The guidelines should detail those policies if the business allows workers to work from home. 

Performance Evaluation

All employees need to understand the organization's performance expectations and how their work will be assessed. This section must outline performance evaluation processes, promotion criteria, and any relevant performance improvement programs. Additionally, specific details should be provided on how goals are set, how feedback is provided, and how performance reviews are conducted. Employees should clearly understand the performance metrics used and the timeline for evaluations.

Leave and Time-Off Policies

Vacation, sick, bereavement, and parental leaves must be covered in this section. Companies should outline the specifics of carryover policies and accruals of leave time. This section may also include information about how employees are expected to handle unexpected emergencies or absences. 

Health and Safety

This area can provide details on safety protocols, emergency procedures, and specific guidelines related to the workplace environment. There should be details on reporting accidents, injuries, or hazards. New York businesses should also provide information about workers' compensation policies under Chapter 67 of the Consolidated Laws of New York.


What Are the Typical Employee Handbook Categories?

Employee handbooks must cover important policies to ensure a safe and secure work environment. They include:

Information Technology and Data Usage 

This section should provide guidelines for properly using company-provided technology resources and personal devices. Requirements for two-factor authentication and SSO should be included here, as well as instructions for contacting the organization's technical support team.

Confidentiality and Intellectual Property

These policies protect sensitive information and outline the steps to safeguard intellectual property. This section might address the handling of copyrighted materials, restrictions on access to trade secret information, and cloud or server data storage procedures.

Disciplinary Procedures

Details in this section help to ensure fairness and consistency in dealing with misconduct or policy violations, highlighting the importance of due process and the organization's commitment to providing support and opportunities for improvement. Often, this section will outline the consequences of various breaches of the terms set out in the code of conduct. 

Termination and Separation Policies 

Finally, this section should outline the procedures for resignations and involuntary terminations, including topics like exit interviews, return of company property, final paychecks, continuation of benefits, and post-employment obligations. Company-standard on-disclosure and non-compete agreements may also be reiterated in this section, even if they are included in individual contracts.

Industry-Specific Employee Handbooks

These broad categories will apply to most workplaces in some form. If you would like to learn about categories to include in your employee handbook specific to your industry, consider reaching out to the experienced New York business attorneys at Schwab & Gasparini.


What Policies Should Go Into an Employee Handbook?

Company policies may be distributed across several categories of activity within the organization. Some policies commonly addressed in employee handbooks include: 

Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity

All companies operating in the state of New York have a legal obligation to make sure they have an inclusive and fair workplace for employees. There should be policies that prohibit all types of discrimination. Along with that, the business should be transparent that they are committed to providing equal opportunities for all employees and details of how to report discriminatory behavior.

Harassment and Bullying Prevention

In addition to those anti-discrimination policies, businesses should have firm guidelines to prevent harassment and bullying behaviors, as outlined by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The employee handbook must provide definitions of harassment and bullying, illustrate examples of unacceptable behavior, and outline the procedures for reporting and addressing these actions. 

Drug and Alcohol Policies

Most businesses want to ensure a safe and productive work environment for everyone. To achieve that outcome, there need to be policies regarding drug and alcohol use. Companies must outline their stance on substance abuse, including guidelines for drug testing, disciplinary actions for policy violations, and information on available resources for employees seeking assistance.

Workplace Violence Prevention

Companies need to address any threats or other issues that occur in the workplace. These policies can provide details on recognizing signs of potential violence, reporting procedures, and taking steps in an emergency.

Employee Privacy

Employees have a right to privacy in the workplace. These policies should discuss all aspects of privacy procedures, including the types of information collected, its usage, and protection measures. Along with that, this section can address employee monitoring and surveillance practices. 

Dress Code and Appearance

Many companies have specific guidelines regarding employee dress codes and appearance. This policy should detail the appropriate attire, grooming standards, and personal hygiene expectations. Additionally, the organization may want to address dress code safety requirements, such as personal protective equipment usage. 


Reach Out to a New York Business Litigation Attorney Today

An employee handbook is an essential guide to explain company policies and expectations. Organizations can create a comprehensive and informative handbook that includes key items and promotes a positive work environment and legal compliance. Regular updates and communication are essential to maintain its effectiveness and relevance. Handbooks are valuable resources for employees and employers, promoting consistency, transparency, and shared expectations. If you would like to learn more about handling workplace issues as a company leader, contact the experienced New York business attorneys at Schwab & Gasparini by calling (315) 422-1333 (Syracuse), Albany Office (518) 591-4664 (Albany), White Plains Office (914) 304-4353 (White Plains) or (914) 304-4353 (Hudson Valley) to schedule an appointment.


Mon Aug 7 2023, 12:00am