Also known as a staff manual and business handbook, an employee handbook is a document given to employees which outlines your company’s policies, culture, and expectations of behaviour and performance in the workplace.
Although not a legal requirement in Australia, an employee handbook is a great way to induct new staff into your organisation, and give existing staff a document they can reference at any time to keep their knowledge of workplace policies and procedures up to scratch.
Employee handbooks should be written to meet the specific needs of your business and the industry in which you operate. Of course, the contents of the document will need to be updated and recirculated each year to accommodate for changes to employment law, Award terms and the company itself.
As an employer you have a legal responsibility to inform your employees of their rights and responsibilities. However, there is no federal or state law that requires you to have an employee handbook.
There are many good reasons to have an employee handbook though. Many employers like them because they help to clarify expectations and reduce misunderstandings at work. Another benefit for employees is they can clearly see the benefits and compensations they are entitled to receive.
An employee handbook can help in the event of an employee claim. Depending on the case itself, if you can prove that an employee knew the standards and expectations of their role, you may be able to increase your chances of successfully defending a claim.
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 detailed enough to get the full message across to your employees.
For this reason it’s a good idea to consult an expert in employment law. 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.
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 details that every company should include in their employee handbook. Here are some of the following terms to address in your document:
Outside of these guidelines, you should also inform your staff on employment policies and procedures that relate to your business. Don’t simply copy and paste policy templates that you find online. Make sure the terms you include are relevant to your business and the industry you are involved in.
Below are some of the most common policies and procedures to clarify in your employee handbook:
An employee handbook is not something you write once and set aside. Every year new employment laws are introduced while current laws are often modified. Furthermore, you may need to update the handbook in response to internal changes in the company itself.
Make sure to review, revise and recirculate your employee handbook on an annual basis. You should also have employees sign an agreement to confirm they have received the updated document.
If necessary, you can also host a training or info session to verbally communicate these changes, and take questions from staff to clarify details they are unsure about.