Creating An Effective Employee Handbook

Every company, no matter how small, would benefit a lot in having an employee handbook. Do not wait until problems occur before drafting one. It is much easier to resolve a situation if there is a policy or rule regarding such. Under pressure and lack of time, the quality of your decision would inevitably suffer. Also, without written rules, you will be more vulnerable to charges of bias or even suffer legal challenges.
Do not just copy other companies’ manuals. You must adapt the rules according to your particular situation. It would be better if you could study employee manuals from the same type of business and function. In the process of making the handbook, you should also consult with the employees to provide additional input as to the wisdom of the rules you are drafting. You may be surprised that a certain rule would not be feasible in practice and they may suggest something very useful that you had not incorporated.
The manual must be easily understood by every employee. Not every employee is a college graduate, so it must be written simply and clearly as possible. There may also be employees who can only understand the manual if it is written in Filipino. Besides the possible legal problem, it would also be difficult for those who cannot understand English to follow the rules.
There are a lot of things you may want to put in your employee handbook. While it may seem best to have a rule for each situation, there are too many possibilities, so you should only address those that frequently happen or have significant impact. Besides this, there are also disadvantages in going into so much detail—sometimes you lose flexibility in handling a situation.
Making an employee handbook is a major undertaking. Here are some important items that you should include:
Vision and mission. Stating this at the start would give employees a better idea of the priorities and culture of the company so that they could align their behavior to be consistent with the company’s vision and mission.
Compensation and benefits. This is the part that employees would like to know first and foremost. Besides the basic salary, overtime pay and incentives, this is the part where you mention company benefits if there are any.
Working hours. You should specify the exact time and duration of the lunch break and other breaks that are allowed. Note that breaks under 20 minutes are considered part of payable work time under current laws.
Policy on tardiness and absences. The rules on tardiness and absences should be given careful thought because these are the most common disciplinary problems. Some of the issues that must be decided are the acceptable excuses for tardiness and absences.
Prohibitions . Gambling, pornography, illegal acts, possession of or under the influence of drugs or alcoholic beverage. State here, too, lesser violations that are not allowed, like personal use of company equipment.
Legal requirements. You may incorporate here all the legal requirements that need to be stated in writing.
Terms of employment. Here are stated certain conditions that could result in termination if violated. Examples of this are prohibitions on marrying co-workers, hiring of relatives, moonlighting, and other terms of employment.
Employee conduct . This covers a broad range of policies and rules that prescribe how an employee should behave. This also covers matters like rules on uniforms, grooming, hygiene, and attitude towards customers and co-workers.
Safety regulations and disaster preparedness. While this is more important in factory settings, there must also be policies and rules to prevent or minimize accidents in the office or other settings. Note here who will be responsible for matters relating to this.
Miscellaneous. In this category, you lump all the other items that do not fit in with the other categories. Some of these are Internet and e-mail use.
Penalties. Rules would be difficult to implement if there are no corresponding penalties. Normally, these must be in writing to avoid legal problems later on. Certain violations are so severe that they merit immediate termination. But usually, violations are not so serious. For most transgressions there is a progressive penalty which may start with just a verbal warning and then gradually escalate with repeated violations to qualify for suspension and even termination.
Date. It is important that you indicate the date when the handbook was printed. This is to make clear which version of the handbook is the most recent and the one to be followed.
The employee handbook is as crucial to the company as the Constitution is to the country. It sets in writing the expectations and obligations of both management and employees. Having a good employee handbook is the best tool to prevent disputes before they arise and to resolve problems when they happen.

*Originally published by the Manila Bulletin. D-4, Sunday, May 26, 2013. Written by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.