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As an employer, you want to consider the best employment practices to implement in your business that will serve both you and your employees. Accurately communicating with your employees is an excellent way to ensure no miscommunication between you and your staff. One way to do this is through an employee handbook. This article explores what to include in an employee handbook and why your business might use one.

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Employee Handbooks

An employee handbook is a comprehensive document that outlines your business’ mission, policies, and expectations for an employee. It also covers an employee’s rights and obligations during employment with your business. 

Elements to Include

Employee handbooks will differ significantly between businesses, depending on their size and industry. However, there are a few important elements that you should include in an employee handbook. For example:

  • onboarding information;
  • business vision and history;
  • code of conduct;
  • policies, such as equal opportunity policies;
  • standard business hours;
  • leave processes, including carers’, parental and annual leave;
  • privacy policies;
  • end of employment procedures, including termination and resignation;
  • performance standards;
  • performance management;
  • human resources policies, including bullying and harassment policies and complaint procedures; and
  • social media and IT policies;

Of course, the above is just a guideline. Ultimately, the items you need in your handbook will vary.

Drafting an Employee Handbook

It can be daunting to begin drafting an employee handbook. To assist you with knowing where to start, we explore some key steps to take. 

1. Consider Policies

You will likely base your employee handbook on your business’ policies and procedures. So, a first step might be updating these before adding them to your handbook. If you do not have comprehensive policies, you will need to develop some to include in your handbook.

2. Understand Legislation

Importantly, you should also understand any relevant legislation or regulations covering your business and industry. Likewise, ensure that you refer to and address these in your employee policy.

For example, you might choose to include equal opportunity policies and employment termination policies in your employee handbook. In that case, be sure to write these policies in line with Australia’s discrimination laws and the Fair Work Act, respectively.

3. Prepare an Outline 

Additionally, you should prepare an outline for your employee handbook before you begin to write it. This will ensure you know exactly what you want to include. An outline will also help you identify any missing policies or procedures, ensuring you can address these gaps as soon as possible.

4. Consider Distribution

Once you develop an outline for your employee handbook, it will be time to put it together. At this time, you should consider how you will distribute your handbook. Indeed, this might impact how you put it together.

For example, will you print physical copies of the handbook to give to employees? Alternatively, you might send out online copies that your business can easily amend.

5. Review and Publish

Finally, you will need to renew your publication and finalise it before publishing it. At any stage after publication, you should update the employee handbook as necessary when there are changes to any relevant laws or internal policies.

Legal Issues

Often, an employee will sign a statement demonstrating that they have read and understood the employee handbook and agree to be bound by its contents. 

However, it is important to note that an employee handbook is not a legally binding contract. So, you should not consider it as such. Instead, it serves as mere guidelines for employees as to what they can expect and what you expect of them throughout their employment.

Benefits for Employees 

Further, a comprehensive employee handbook has a range of benefits for employees. Firstly, it serves as a guideline for your employees so they know exactly what you expect from them at work. 

Additionally, it will also outline what they can expect from their employer. This might include details on:

  • how to issue a complaint;
  • who to deal with; and 
  • how your business will resolve issues.

Employee handbooks also outline the benefits and compensation they can expect to receive, making it a great reference to refer to throughout the course of employment. 

As a business grows and evolves, it is natural that an employee handbook will change to better reflect your business’ new growth. Ideally, employers should review their handbook regularly and make any necessary changes.

Key Takeaways

An employee handbook is a comprehensive document that outlines your business’ mission, policies, and expectations for an employee. Some key things to note about employee handbooks is that they:

  • are a useful communication tool for both employer and employee;
  • should include business policies and procedures;
  • will differ greatly from business to business; and
  • should be updated as needed.

If you need assistance developing an employee handbook for your business, our experienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is a document that outlines your business’s mission, policies, and expectations for an employee. It also covers an employee’s rights and obligations during employment with your business. 

What should an employee handbook include?

Employee handbooks will differ greatly between businesses, depending on their size and industry. However, you should include a few critical elements in your handbook, like onboarding information, a code of conduct, and your human resources policies. 


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