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How to Create an Employee Handbook

Published May 23, 2021 (last updated on April 18, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer

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Writing an employee handbook from scratch is a big undertaking. You have to explain a lot of rules and guidelines in a way that is easy to understand yet is detailed enough to get the full message across to your employees.

Creating an employee handbook is a critical step in setting your employees up for success. Employees need to know what is expected of them as they go about their daily duties. They need to be well-informed about the company’s policies and procedures and know to get in touch with management or HR when needed. An employee handbook should contain lawful and reasonable management directions that your employees must abide by or face disciplinary action. 

For this reason, it’s a good idea to consult a professional.  They can review the contents of your employee handbook and advise you on any terms or conditions that may be hard to interpret or unlawful. By taking this extra step, you could be in a better position to defend employee claims.

Aside from the basic employment guidelines, your employee handbook should introduce staff to the way you do things, the values you stand for, and the kind of corporate culture you envision. Having this information can give your employee handbook a ‘personal touch’ that is more engaging for your staff to read.

What to include in your employee handbook

How you choose to structure the contents of your employee handbook is entirely up to you. The kind of information you include will depend greatly on the size of your company, the industry you specialise in, and the tone or style you use to communicate with your employees.

Regardless of your approach, there are certain things that every company should include in their employee handbook, such as a reflection of the current company culture, workplace policies and procedures, company expectations, and key onboarding information.

Take a look at who your company is

You might wish to include:

  • Information on the Company Culture

  • Important Company Values

  • Your Mission Statement

These things help establish what sets your company apart and why employees should want to work for you. 

Provide a comprehensive overview of your company’s policies and procedures

As part of your employee handbook, you may include:

  • General employment information and policies and a Code of Conduct

  • Discrimination, bullying and harassment policies and grievance procedures

  • Health and safety policies, procedures and information

  • Information about employee benefits, bonus schemes, reward and recognition programmes

  • Leave policies and procedures

  • Performance standards and training and development opportunities

  • Disciplinary, termination and redundancy policies

  • Confidential information, privacy and internet and email policies

  • Use of Company property e.g. company mobile phone policy

BrightHR allows you to store employee profiles and key documents such as contracts and handbooks securely in the cloud and determine employee access. You can upload updated polices and handbooks, set reminders and notifications of key dates, and get read receipts once your employees have accessed the latest version.

Outline company expectations

In addition to your general employment information and information about who your company is, you may also consider including a section about the reasonable expectations your company has for your employees. What type of performance do you expect? Is there a specific attitude or a specific set of behaviours your company should exemplify? Clearly lay out your company’s expectations for employees.

You could also include any relevant information about what your employees should expect from your company, especially as it differs from other companies in your industry. Consider information like continuing education offers and experience employees can gain as well as specific help available at your company. 

Include key onboarding information

Employees will likely refer to the employee handbook more during the onboarding process than they do at any other point during employment. To help ensure that employees are able to easily access information related to the onboarding process, make sure your handbook contains everything they need to know to get signed up for benefits, connect with members of your HR department, or learn more about how to accomplish their jobs. Some employee handbooks may even contain critical training information that can help employees do their jobs more effectively. 

BrightHR and BrightSafe offer online learning modules that you can use to train staff particularly in respect of their health and safety obligations.

Whether you’re a small business that’s just getting off the ground or a business that has been around for a while, but that needs a new employee handbook, your handbook creation process will look much the same. 

  1. Take a look at your policies. Update anything that is out-of-date, especially changed benefits policies or health and safety policies that are not in keeping with current standards. 

  2. Create an outline for your handbook, including all of the important information you want to add to it. 

  3. Summarise your important policies and procedures, then add those summaries along with the extended versions of the procedures. 

  4. Add any other important information

  5. Have an employment relations professional review your handbook to ensure that it meets all necessary legal requirements and reflects best practice

  6. Edit your handbook.

  7. Distribute as needed.

  8. Consult employees as to any new policies or major procedural changes if required in accordance with the applicable award or agreement.

  9. Get employees to sign off on the handbook to acknowledge their understanding.

  10. Update regularly.

Great employee handbook examples

Looking for an employee handbook example that will help you create a highly effective, inclusive template for your own business? While your industry may include its own unique information, you may want to take a look at some of these great examples.

  • Netflix Employee Culture Guide. This guide is short, concise, and contains all necessary information for potential Netflix employees.

  • The Valve Employee Handbook has gone viral for its extensive information, including step-by-step explanations regarding an employee’s first day and real-world examples of how that content might prove relevant.

  • The Disqus Culture Book shows a clear example of an employee handbook with personality and spice–one that is full of the information employees need to get started with the company for the first time. 

  • HubSpot’s Employee Culture Guide offers simple, concise information on each slide while still taking employees deeper into what the company has to offer. 

Employsure can help you draft workplace policies, procedures and documents such as a Handbook. Call us for free initial advice on 1300 651 415.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What do most employee handbooks include?

Most employee handbooks include a clear look at the company’s culture and policies so that employees will have access to the information they need to be successful within the company.

When should a company create an employee handbook?

If you have employees, it’s a great time to put together a comprehensive employee handbook that will answer their most critical questions and set standards and expectations for both the employer and the employees. 

How long is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook can be as long or as short as it needs to be to cover all the important details. In general, however, Employsure drafted employee handbooks usually run to around 50 to 60 pages, depending on the policies clients would like to include.

What format should the document be in?

Many companies are now creating employee handbooks as slideshows. However, a PDF format will make it easy for employees to keep track of the handbook policies and use it to search for vital information. 

Can you change the employee handbook at any time?

 If your handbook does not form part of the employees’ employment contracts, and contains an amendment policy, you can usually change your employee handbook when needed. However, you will need to notify your employees of any policy changes, and if the changes are major (as defined in a Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement), consultation may be required.

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