The 5 Elements Every Employee Handbook Should Contain

An employee handbook is essential for any business. As an owner, you likely won’t have the ability to personally relay all of the important corporate information to each of your employees. A handbook is an indispensable tool that you can use to communicate with your employees to make sure that everyone feels welcome, knows their rights, and understands corporate policy. There are numerous benefits to having one, from reducing the likelihood of lawsuits to answering basic employee questions by including information relating to day-to-day operations, such as the corporate dress code. Below we outline some foundational information that no employee handbook should be without.


  • Provisions required by law


Depending on your location, there are policies that must be included in the handbook depending on local, state, or federal law. Therefore, it is important to familiarize yourself with these laws while drafting your handbook to ensure that you are in compliance at every level. For this reason, it may also be prudent to obtain the help of an experienced business lawyer in order to make sure that your handbook is as comprehensive as possible.


  • Explain the terms of your employment policies


As with any business, there are a multitude of questions that employees may have in the regular course of their employment. The handbook is a resource where your employees can find the answers to such questions. For example, your handbook should outline all aspects of policies relating to your employees’ compensation. This includes standard hours, pay and overtime opportunities, benefits, pension plans, as well as detailing the differences between paid and unpaid time off.

Additionally, the majority of states (including Virginia) are at-will employment states, and this should be noted in your handbook. “At-will” employment means that employers can let go of employees for any reason or no reason at all and without notice. It also means that employees are equally free to quit or cease working. Including this information provides a safeguard against any potential employment disputes relating to terminations and resignations.


  • Non-Contract and Subject to Change Clauses


In addition to informing your employees of the rights involved in an at-will employment relationship, it’s necessary that they understand that the handbook does not subsequently create any additional rights to employment in and of itself. The handbook is a resource and in no way creates a contract guaranteeing employment. Further, employees need to know that the information within a guidebook is subject to change throughout their employment and that the most recently distributed guidebook trumps all other sources of corporate policy information.


  • Anti-Harassment, Safety, and Substance Abuse Policies


Detailing information about your company’s anti-harassment, safety, and substance abuse

policies is a key way that you can shield your company against liability, as well as empower your employees to feel safe and secure in the workplace. In detailing all of this information up front and keeping it in an accessible place, you can rest assured that your employees will know relevant boundaries, feel comfortable in their abilities to adhere to them, and know where to go if they need help.


  • A dedicated employee acknowledgement page


There’s no point in going through the trouble of having an employee handbook if you can’t be certain that your employees will actually read it. Therefore, it is crucial to have a dedicated page where the employee acknowledges not only their receipt of the handbook, but that they have read and understand everything within its pages. This way, if a dispute ever arises, you can rely on this affirmation in either defending yourself against liability or advocating on behalf of your employee. Finally, be sure to seek a new acknowledgement with any updated handbook you distribute to your employees.

The Wilson Law Group, PLC has over 25 years of dedicated experience providing quality legal services to Virginia’s business owners, including discounted rates for veteran clients. For a free consultation regarding your business needs, please visit us online at or call our office at 804-864-5268.

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Wilson Law Group

Jim Wilson is the founder and principal attorney of the Wilson Law Group. For the past 25 years he has been combining legal dexterity with an entrepreneurial mindset to help aspiring and established business owners start, finance, buy, sell, and run their companies.

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