Things To Cover In A Policy Handbook

Your employees need an effective policy handbook to answer questions and save administrators' time. Here are suggestions for topics to cover.

If you own or operate a small, growing business, sooner or later you will need to develop a policy handbook for your employees. Not only will this publication answer employees' questions and prevent mistakes while enhancing production, it will provide legal protection in case of an incident where employees might claim "But I didn't know what to do!"

The larger and more complex an organization, the more substantial the policy guide. But smaller companies can begin with a simple handbook or manual that covers the basics, expanding it as the company grows. Here are some of the usual topics covered in many policy manuals:

1. Workday framework. List hours of operation, lunch and break times, and ongoing routine events, such as a Friday morning staff meeting.

2. Annual calendar. Include all legal and paid company holidays as well as pertinent dates, such as mid-July company shutdown for two weeks or the annual picnic.

3. Basic building layout. Indicate locations of restrooms, conference room, and other special areas such as a company library or resource room, supply area, employees' kitchen or eating area, factory floor locations, storage, and others. You can use a graphic map with a "legend" (or list) of key places, or provide a short narrative for each site. While not a true "policy," the floor plan indicates where various functions should be carried out.

4. Attendance policy. List who to contact, which information is needed, and when. Also explain special attendance ramifications, such as requiring documentation for hospitalization or disciplinary action for a certain number of unreported absences.

5. Dress code. Describe required clothing or styles (with brand names as examples, if possible), along with limits, if any, on jewelry, cosmetics, shoes, fragrances, hair styles, nail fashions, etc. If these are not spelled out, employees may consider themselves free to adopt a wide range of fashions, some of which may not be appropriate for your office style, especially if client contact is involved.

6. Affirmative action and equal employment opportunity status. Follow government guidelines to be sure your company is in compliance, and indicate this in the handbook.

7. Sexual harassment policy. This also should be adopted from government policy and may include policies against gender bias or religious discrimination. Spell out exactly what is protected at your workplace, and consequences of flouting the policy guidelines.

8. Disciplinary policies. List offenses, with examples, along with the chain of repercussions that will follow. Employees should know what to do and not do to retain employment and avoid censure on the job.

9. Personal habits. Explain boundaries for smoking, eating at the work station, leaving the job site during work hours, arriving late or leaving early, family visits (including bringing children to work), and other personal issues.

10. Using company services and equipment. Spell out guidelines for employee use of company telephone, vehicles, Internet service, postage, supplies, or borrowing equipment to take home and return after use.

While not comprehensive by any means, the above constitute the types of policies that probably should be included in a policy handbook. See what other companies are doing or ask your staff for suggestions and questions as you organize a manual for their use.

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