Employee Handbooks are often one of the first pieces of documentation a new employee looks at during orientation. A handbook serves as an introduction to your organization and provides employees with an outline of policies and procedures that will apply to them throughout their employment.

Regardless of the size of your organization, your industry, or your location, there are a number of vital components that every handbook should have to ensure that policies are not only compliant but effectively communicated.

Compliance with State, Federal, and Local Law

Staying on top of employment and labor law and updating your handbook annually, or as needed, to ensure compliance is crucial in ensuring that your employees are provided with the most recent and compliant information.

At-Will Employer

The inclusion of an at-will statement, and repeating it throughout your handbook as needed to accompany certain policies, is important to make sure you don’t unknowingly create a contract for employment that is difficult to terminate.

Harassment Policy

Many handbooks have a short and sweet harassment policy. We recommend having a separate section of your handbook which includes not only a longer harassment policy that details the different forms of harassment and what is/is not acceptable, but provides employees with a harassment policy acknowledgment form to sign and return to their manager or HR, indicating their understanding of and agreement to abide by the policy.


Affirmative action and non-discrimination in employment practices is a hot topic in the HR world. Having a policy that indicates your organization’s commitment to promoting non-discrimination in all aspects of employment is not only legally compliant, but can help prevent potential legal pitfalls.

Guidelines for Appropriate Conduct

Guidelines that communicate to your employees what is expected of them with regards to behavior and conduct is a section that is heavily used. This section provides you with an opportunity to communicate standards in areas such as: dress code, attendance, drug and alcohol use, unacceptable behaviors, etc.

Disciplinary Process

Much like the code of conduct section, outlining the disciplinary process is important in ensuring that employees know what is expected of them, what the ramifications are if they violate company policies are, and what the steps of that process entail.

Open-Door and Employee Complaint

Often included as a part of the section on your organization’s disciplinary process, the inclusion of the employee complaint/grievance process is intended to let employees know what they can do if they have any issues at work; whether that be conflict with another employee, a disagreement with a piece of disciplinary documentation, or a report as a witness to a violation.

It is also important to communicate that you have an open-door policy, and that employees are always welcome to come and talk to you about any issues they have, in a confidential and safe environment.

Internet/Computer/Device Policy

In today’s technology-drive workforce, employees are constantly working with computers, email, mobile phones and other electronic devices. A beneficial tool, the expectations for the use of company property is important to ensure that there is no abuse of such equipment and resources, and productivity and confidentiality are maintained.


A handbook doesn’t have to be long and extremely detailed. For benefits, it is not necessary to include complete benefit plan summaries. Providing an outline of the benefit programs offered to employees (including health, dental, vision, retirement, etc.) is more than sufficient, with a mention of a point of contact for additional information or questions.

Acknowledgement Form

Much like the form that accompanies the harassment policy, an acknowledgment for that recognizes the employee’s understanding of the communicated policies and their agreement to abide by them is a vital piece of your handbook. Without this acknowledgment of receipt and understanding, the policies and procedures hold no meaning.

Creating and maintaining a thorough and complete handbook can be a challenge, especially with countless other tasks coming your way on a daily basis. HRCentral can help you create or update/modify your handbook, ensuring effective communication of these policies and compliance with applicable law.