Why Do I Need an Employee Handbook?

Why do I need an employee handbook for my business?

Courtrooms are filled with business owners able to answer that question with absolutely clarity!

Human nature is the reason. When everything is going well everyone seems to be very happy and gets along great! However, when things get rough and toes are stepped on, people get ugly! Really ugly!

Marriage is a great example of this. Two people stand before God and witnesses pledging their love and commitment to each other swearing before all of them that they will stay married until death do they part. We all know the statistics on that, don’t we?

So why do I need an employee handbook?

Although it is not a contract, nor anything like one, it does present the rules and expectations of your employees within your business. Typically, as long as you don’t have a policy that contradicts the law and you treat all employees fairly and equally it is intended to maintain order within the workplace.

As an example poor attendance can be a big problem and suck the life (and money) out of a workforce if not managed correctly. Having an employee handbook that spells out your position on attendance leaves the employees with no question marks about what is going to happen they break your attendance policy. Depending on state law you can create a policy that meets your needs and expectations. If you wanted to state that anyone that misses even one day due to illness will be terminated, you could (except currently in Montana where it is not an “At Will” State).

Even working in a volunteer role as a Personnel Director within a Church I answered my own question as to why do I need an employee handbook. Of all places you would believe that Church employees would not cause disruption. I discovered that when our Youth Director claimed we cheated them out of vacation days the employee handbook that I created put that question and challenge to bed. Because it spelled out the Church’s policy on vacation days earned the Youth Director was satisfied.

How about some of the more complicated and legal issues today like how does your business deal with claims of sexual harassment or discrimination. Violating any one of these two will sink any business today. These are very costly if they end up in court. Trust me when I tell you that the courts are sympathetic to individuals that appear to be a victim. The assumption by juries is that all business owners have very deep pockets. My advice to you is that you better know the law. As an example California has some very strict rules on how businesses within their state must comply with sexual harassment laws. Ignorance is not an excuse either.

So I ask the question again, why do I need an employee handbook? Let me ask you this. Can an employee use the business telephone (land line or cellular) to make any personal calls they want? If your business has vehicles can the employees use them for personal reasons? If your business has computers can an employee surf the Internet and go to any website the feel the urge to go to including pornography? If you have copiers can employees make personal copies of an unlimited amount? If your company deals in cash can an employee be over or short any amount?

Get the point? Lots of questions need to be answered.

If you make the assumption that it is my business and my rules you are half way right. It is your business but state and federal law trumps your right to make up the rules as you go along.

I have had the pleasure of attending many unemployment hearings over my forty years in leadership and the number one question is “Did the employee know the rules?” Once I established that they did and I won. The number one document that I used was our employee handbook.

It seems so simple yet so many business owners just cruse along without giving something like an employee handbook a second thought. That same business owner ends up in an attorney’s office trying to defend themselves against a wrongful discharge case or an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Claim. The first question the attorney asks is let me see your employee handbook. The business owner looks back at the attorney and asks why do I need an employee handbook?

Thank you and may God bless you!

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