It's common sense for employees to know that certain on-the-job behaviors can and will likely result in termination. For example, it is likely common knowledge that actions such as stealing from the business, threatening fellow employees or customers or showing up late to work on a consistent basis are reasonable grounds for termination.
However, because there are countless matters relating to employees, their rights and the expectations a business has of their workers that aren’t as clear, it is wise to provide a written employee manual to staff members. Not only does having a well-written manual reflect positively on a business, since it demonstrates the company is concerned with informing its employees of information pertinent to their success with the company, providing such a manual has other benefits, too. For example, the manual allows a company to communicate, in writing, what it expects of employees for the salary and benefits they receive for their work. Maintaining written rules allows for their consistent enforcement, an extremely important practice for mindful company owners. That being said, it is incumbent on entrepreneurs to enforce the rules and policies contained in the manual equally among all employees so accusations of favoritism or discrimination can not be raised.
According to Bill Nolan, managing partner of the Columbus office of Barnes & Thornburg, it is wise not to over-complicate an employee manual. “Most companies have too many policies, or policies that are overly complicated,” he says.
Just as the specific contents of an employee manual vary company to company, they are also dependent on the laws governing the entity in question. Still, there are commonalities to be included in employee manuals, says Nolan. Those include policies regarding:
Employment-at-will provisions, if the company is located in at Employment-at-will state
Over-time pay and policies
The use of technology at work
BYOD provisions, if appropriate
Appropriate workplace conduct, which Nolan labels as a “harassment” policy
Although it would be prudent for a small business owner to consult with an experienced business law attorney licensed in their state before finalizing an employee manual, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) offers a free employee manual template. Certainly the information contained in a business’s employee manual should convey that particular entity’s policies, the NFIB’s booklet is an excellent resource. It can be found by clicking here.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is another excellent and free online resource about employee manuals. Their informative guide can be found by clicking here.
Tami Kamin Meyer is an Ohio attorney and writer who tweets as @girlwithapen.