Homebase: Required restaurant employee handbook updates for 2021

Editorial Team

5 min read
Masked cafe worker holding coffee drink

After the joy of the holiday season, you as a restaurant owner or manager face a not-so-joyful task: updating workplace policies for the new year. These policies live in the employee handbook.

After the joy of the holiday season, you as a restaurant owner or manager face a not-so-joyful task: updating workplace policies for the new year. These policies live in the employee handbook. 

The federal government does not legally require restaurants—or any other small businesses—to maintain an employee handbook. However, it does require you to inform your employees of their rights, and the best way to do that is to keep it all in one easy-to-access place. 

Plus, having all your policies buttoned up in your employee handbook will make your onboarding process much smoother and more efficient. Instead of taking over the huge stack of loose leaf papers, your new hire can read the handbook on their own time. 

While you have the freedom to make your own rules in sections of the handbook like social media behavior, cell phones at work, and more, you’re required by law to ensure some sections follow federal and state legislation. What’s more, you’re required to adhere to all the policies you put in place. 

Let’s go over what those sections are and how to either update them to keep up with 2021 law changes, or to write them as part of your first-ever employee handbook. 

Note: In order to update your policies to follow federal and state labor laws, you need to have a reliable source. Homebase, a free, online team management system, has a great labor law guide center to help you figure out what’s required in your area and write the perfect handbook for your restaurant.

Minimum wage changes 

You may be in a state where you are able to pay your servers (or cashiers) a tipped minimum wage if they make a certain amount of tips weekly. You may also operate in a state that requires all employees, regardless of their position, to be paid the same amount in minimum wage. Either way, many states are increasing both rates in 2021

If you do operate on either tipped or minimum wage rates, make sure you update this section of your employee handbook based on what’s changing in your area. 

You may also be considering implementing a tip-splitting strategy in the new year, and depending on where you live, there could be rules regarding whether or not you can do this. Take a look at your state laws on tip splitting to see what you need to be aware of before crafting a policy.

Breaks, overtime, paid leave


Federal and state governments take wage and hour laws seriously. Your employees should be made aware in the handbook of not only how many breaks they need to legally take per shift, but also how to officially take those breaks.

If you use Homebase, for example, you would include in your handbook how employees use the app to clock in for shifts, and how to clock out for breaks. Inform them that if a break is missed, the Homebase app will notify you as the manager, and they will also receive an alert on their Homebase app. 


The federal overtime rule should also be laid out in your handbook. According to the US Department of Labor, non-exempt “employees covered by the Act must receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate not less than time and one-half their regular rates of pay.”

If you’re looking for a tool to keep track of and prevent overtime hours from occurring, Homebase can help. Their time clock solution automatically calculates overtime hours and will alert you when an employee is about to hit overtime so you can make smarter scheduling decisions and save money on labor costs throughout the new year.

Paid leave

As for paid leave, many states including New York, California, Colorado, and Massachusetts are increasing their laws in 2021. If you operate in one of these states, you’ll need to update your handbook policy to adhere to the new rules. 

If you do not have a paid leave program in place but would like to include one in your 2021 handbook, Homebase can help with live, expert HR advice from certified advisors who will assist you in creating new policies to benefit both your business and your team.  

Marijuana legalization 

State legalization of marijuana is increasing across the country. Montana, Arizona, New Jersey, and South Dakota recently approved recreational marijuana, which means you may want to alter your restaurant drug testing policies. 

However, marijuana is still illegal on the federal level, so there is confusion around what businesses should do. This is another area where expert HR advisors at Homebase can provide some clarity and direction on how to implement a drug policy in a state where your employees can legally consume cannabis. 

Action steps

Updating your employee handbook and covering all your bases, from legal requirements to suggested policies, is no simple feat. Homebase offers HR Pro for exactly this reason. When you sign up, you’ll not only have access to expert HR advisors to help create policies, but you’ll also be able to implement time tracking, scheduling, and team policies right into the Homebase app. 

Homebase’s employee onboarding software will even prep new team members on your newly updated handbook before they start working. Your new hire will receive a packet that includes your handbook as well as all the necessary paperwork they need to sign. 

This way you can focus on showing them the ropes of your business and introducing them to company culture and their teammates, and they’ll be set up to hit the ground running on day one. Get started with Homebase today to start the year with a new and improved operations strategy for your business. 

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