A woman stands next to a floor-to-ceiling window, holding an open blue binder. The woman has wavy brown hair with gold highlights and wears a light gray sweater over a white collared shirt. The window reflects the woman's image back at her.
A large section of your company's employee handbook will cover everyday policies and procedures, including a code of conduct, PTO and sick leave, and an anti-harassment policy. — Getty Images/momcilog

Employee handbooks provide guidance and information about the company’s mission, vision, values, policies and procedures, and workplace code of conduct.

Developing a handbook from scratch can be an overwhelming and intimidating task, so understanding what to include is crucial. Here are some important suggested sections to add to your employee handbook.

Welcome statement

The opening section of your employee handbook will be what new employees see first, so include a welcome letter from the CEO, president, or another company leader. It sets a positive tone for the handbook and can foster a connection with the employee when recognizing them as a new addition to the team.

[Read more: 6 Training Platforms to Facilitate Employee Development]

Company information

Include a section toward the beginning of your employee handbook that discusses your company and its principles. Begin with sharing the company’s history, explaining how it's grown over time, and then expand into your company’s mission, values, and culture.

  • Mission: Explain what your company aims to achieve and how. The mission statement shows employees there’s a larger goal at hand.
  • Values: Values show the guiding principles and ideals of your business. By setting expectations for the employee, they can then incorporate those principles into day-to-day duties.
  • Culture: Company culture is the sum of your formal and informal systems, behaviors, and values, which all create an experience for the employee. Create statements about what it’s like to work for your company and how you promote a positive atmosphere.

Your employee handbook should include legal requirements so both parties understand their rights.

Employment policies

This portion of the handbook is comprised of the most crucial behaviors and procedures for your business and includes:

  • Anti-harassment: Anti-harassment policies show the employer’s commitment to maintaining a workplace free from harassment, so employees can feel safe at work.
  • At-will nature of employment: Outline the details of employment, noting the employer can fire an employee for any reason, as long as it’s legal, without warning.
  • Code of conduct: Create clear guidelines about what is acceptable behavior at work (e.g., appropriate dress code, interpersonal relationships, and the use of cell phones or social media).
  • Safety and security: Outline procedures for entering and exiting the building, with the use of an ID or fingerprint scan to enter classified areas of the office. Include any other safety and security measures here, such as handling company data and equipment.
  • Sick leave policy: Sick leave policies include the number of sick days allowed per year and other related protocols, such as whether employees need a doctor’s note.
  • Paid time off policy: A paid time off (PTO) policy relates to fully compensated vacation days, personal days, and holidays. Note the number of PTO days a new employee has, how the days accrue, and which holidays the company acknowledges.
  • Family and medical leave: If your company has at least 50 employees, you will need a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy that enables eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical reasons.
  • Equal employment opportunity statement: Most employers are required to have an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy visible to employees per federal and state laws. Even if not required, an EEO policy shows your company’s commitment to creating an equitable workforce.

[Read more: 5 Steps to Developing Human Resources Policies for Your Startup]

Legal requirements

Your employee handbook should include legal requirements so both parties understand their rights. Both federal and local laws are essential, including clauses about the job and handbook. Review state requirements so your company can discuss mandatory topics like the following:

  • Worker’s compensation: States require companies to outline policies if an employee were to get injured on the job.
  • Nondiscrimination and equal employment policies: The U.S. Department of Labor requires employers to abide by nondiscrimination and EEO policies and guidelines when hiring staff, guaranteeing equal treatment.
  • Disabilities: Company handbooks should address how policies and procedures adjust for people with disabilities in the workplace and during hiring processes.
  • Not a contract: Include a clause that mentions the employee handbook is not a contract and the job can be terminated at any point.
  • Subject to change: Policies can change over time. Add another clause that states you will notify employees of any updates should they change.

For more information on how to create an employee handbook, visit CO—’s guide on this topic.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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