Q: I am buying an existing business. The company does not have an employee handbook, but the company I work for now does. Should I adopt a company handbook?
A: Whether your company needs an employee handbook is greatly impacted by the size of the company, the number of its employees, the nature of its business and its goals. Because we don’t know any details related to your new company, we will discuss the use of employee handbooks generally. But to determine whether you should adopt a handbook, and more importantly, what it should say, we will need much more information.
Company handbooks can be useful to provide uniformity of the information your company provides to its employees. What is expected of the employees? What can they expect from the company? A handbook, if properly executed and implemented, puts everyone on the same page. The employee handbook is different than a company’s policy and procedures manual. A policy and procedures manual is generally written for and distributed to office managers, supervisors and other key personnel, and contains the procedures for operating the company as well as overarching company policies. The employee handbook is geared to the worker and interprets the overarching policies and sets forth the implementation of those policies and procedures.
Handbooks often cover issues like employee Internet use, company cell phone use, drug testing policies, vacation policies, sick leave, timekeeping or overtime requirements, and safety policies. They are also good tools to make sure “at will” employees know they are employed at the will of the company and may be dismissed without certain constraints. For employees who are not “at will,” the company handbook can define disciplinary steps.
Some companies clearly need handbooks. Companies with 15 or more employees are subject to certain federal laws. These companies should consult an attorney about developing or updating policies that are required by law, and to properly communicate the policies to its employees. Other companies may adopt policies that must be communicated to employees to be binding. But all companies should be careful not to mistakenly create employee rights by adoption of a handbook if the rights are beyond what the company intends.
The terms of handbooks will vary greatly from company to company. You should consult an attorney to determine whether adopting a handbook is right for your company, and, if so, what terms should be included.
MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at lldlaw.com. Send questions to questions@