Do I Need an Employee Handbook?

If you own or run a business, do you also have a written employee handbook? If so, do you require your employees to sign or acknowledge they have read the handbook? And, how often are you updating the handbook? Although there is no law requiring employers to have an employee handbook, it is a good idea. This article looks briefly into some of the many reasons for having an up-to-date employee handbook.

Communicates Expectations

First and foremost, a well-written employee handbook not only introduces a new employee to the culture of the company, but also communicates what is expected of the employees. The employee handbook will outline all the policies and guidelines of your business, and can quickly and effectively communicate those to a new hire. Having all of your policies and procedures in one document, which all employees will be given, can empower employees to find answers to common questions themselves. As the owner, this may free up your time or inbox from being inundated with emails on the procedure for requesting time off, calling in sick, or other general company procedures.

Compliance with Federal, State Laws

As written, while there is no federal or state law requiring an employer to have an employee handbook, all businesses will still be subject to federal and state employment laws. An effective employee handbook can communicate the numerous protections and obligations to otherwise likely unaware employees. Further, it helps demonstrate to your employees your business in practice is in compliance with all federal and state laws. These policies will communicate the rights and obligations regarding state disability leaves, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and other federal and state regulations.

Employee Claims

There is no denying employers are constantly facing the possibility of potential lawsuits or other disputes. Further, the majority of potential lawsuits are brought by disgruntled current or former employees. If a lawsuit is brought and the dispute with the former employee goes to trial, one of the most helpful documents for the employer to present as evidence will be a copy of the employee handbook. Why? A well written and compliant employee handbook can help show that the business exercised reasonable care towards its employees.

Acknowledgement Form

Along the lines of helping document that a business exercised reasonable care towards its employees, having an acknowledgement form at the end of the handbook provides documentation the employee received and had the opportunity to review the policies of your business. An employer cannot force an employee to sign an acknowledgement, however, you can have the employee write, “I refuse to sign acknowledgement.” This still allows you to provide documentation, if a legal issue were to arise, indicating an employee was provided the handbook and was aware of your policies, but refused when asked to sign the acknowledgement. Employers should make an effort to receive signed acknowledgments from all new hires.

Employee Handbooks are a great tool for business owners to not only keep everyone on the same page but to also protect you and your employees. You should review your employee handbook annually and we recommend you consult with an attorney if you need to update or write an effective and compliant employee handbook.

Joseph Rust is an Associate Attorney with the Sullivan & Ward Professional Corporation. He can be reached at (515) 247-4721 or