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Tips for how to write an employee handbook for a small business

Editorial Team

4 min read
Group of employees around computer

Running a business can be complex – with new situations and challenges cropping up every day. However, having procedures already in place allows everyone on the team to better navigate today’s ever-changing terrain. This is true for all types and sizes of organizations – both large and small. Knowing how to write an employee handbook for a small business is an important part of running your operation.

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This guide walks you through some of the essentials that should go into a small business employee handbook so that you can begin implementing rules and procedures within your company.

What should be included in an employee handbook?

There is no universal employee handbook template that applies to every situation; however, below are some elements that frequently appear:

1. The introduction

The introduction normally summarizes the company’s goals and values. It’s often presented as a “mission statement” that explains why the business exists and what it hopes to achieve.

2. Employee expectations

In this section, lay out how team members are expected to help the company achieve the objectives that are outlined in the mission statement. This list might include:

  • Attendance and work hours
  • Training requirements (if applicable)
  • Attitudes, dress codes, and uniforms
  • Interactions with customers

3. HR policies

This section often builds on (or includes) the previous one, with clearly defined rules governing:

  • Leave time, holidays, and benefits
  • Working arrangements (i.e., flex time versus set hours or on-site versus remote working)
  • The process for filing a complaint against co-workers or supervisors
  • Disciplinary actions and procedures for team members who fail to meet expectations

The goal of establishing HR policies is to communicate that the rules apply to everyone on the team.

4. Employee benefits

The employee benefits section is typically what most team members will want to read first. In it, you should include detailed policies about:

  • Compensation (including 401K contributions)
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Maternity leave, family leave, sick days, and vacation days
  • Health care benefits and workers’ compensation

5. Legal policies

The legal section is one of the most important sections, since it helps to protect your business from potential lawsuits stemming from discrimination, wrongful termination, sexual harassment, or any other disputes that might arise from team members or customers.

To better help prepare you for difficult HR situations, be sure to clearly outline your company’s approach to:

  • Nondisclosure agreements
  • Non-compete clauses
  • Arbitration policies
  • Nondiscrimination policies

It’s also common to include relevant guidelines for your industry from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Publishing your employee handbook

Once you have the basic draft, the next step involves proofing and editing your employee handbook before sending it for a legal review. This step is critical as each state’s laws are different and legal requirements can vary significantly depending on your situation.

When you get the green light from your attorneys, it’s then time to:

  • Publish the employee handbook (in hard copy or digital form)
  • Share the physical or digital handbook with every employee in the company
  • Have all team members acknowledge receipt of the handbook (in writing)

Also, keep in mind that you’ll need to share the employee handbook with all new recruits moving forward. Be prepared to periodically revisit your handbook as your business evolves.

For example, many companies likely had to update their employee manuals during the pandemic due to the unprecedented events taking place in society.

Industry-specific employee handbook tips

The above is a general starting point for how to create an employee handbook. You may need to adjust this template based on your industry or niche.

For example:

  • A restaurant employee handbook would likely include mandatory training about food safety or how to deal with unhappy customers.
  • A retail employee handbook might feature policies about loss prevention. Is it acceptable to inspect each team member’s belongings at the end of each shift? How should employees handle customers who shoplift?

A service employee handbook might need sections about customer etiquette, call-center wait times, and how to properly address clients when sending emails.

Need help with employee management?

Creating an employee handbook is an essential part of business. Just as you might use customer relationship management software to grow sales, there now exist tools that can help facilitate many aspects of employee management. For example, Clover’s POS solutions can help with everything from scheduling to payroll to performance management (in addition to securely accepting payments online, in-store, or at the curb).

To learn more about how our POS technology can help you more effectively manage your employees, schedule a free demo with our sales team today.

This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.

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