An Employee Handbook, also known as a staff handbook, sets out the policies and procedures for a particular workplace that all employees, and to an extent contractors, are required to follow. The Employee Handbook serves an important function in clarifying a business’ expectations of its staff and how they behave during the course of their employment. Part 1 will discuss some of the key clauses of an Employee Handbook, including working hours, attendance and punctuality, and compensation. It will also briefly explain how employment agreements differ from employee handbooks.

What is the difference between the Employment Agreement and Employee Handbook?

While an employment agreement or contractors contract governs the legal relationship between the business and the employee or contractor, an Employee Handbook sets out the Business’s policies and practices that apply to all staff. Ordinarily, in the event of any inconsistency between the Employee Handbook and any Employment Agreement, the terms and conditions of the Employment Contract will prevail.

Once an employee has signed their Employment Agreement, the policies, procedures and expectations set out in the Employee Handbook become effective immediately, unless otherwise stated. In most cases, the business will reserve the right to amend, delete or add to any of sections of the Handbook, subject to the contractual rights of their staff.

Working hours

Under the clause entitled ‘Working hours’, you would normally include the regular work schedule and work tasks of employees of the business. It is worth noting that an employees work hours may vary in accordance with the terms of his or her employment agreement, and may be based on the nature of the work, and other factors, such as workload. 

A well-drafted Employee Handbook might also address start times and lunch schedules as the responsibility of the manager of the business.

Attendance, Punctuality, Conduct 

The Employee Handbook will also communicate that it is the business’ expectation that staff will arrive at work on time. This clause should also address the expectation of all employees to arrive on time to appointments with clients of the business. Make mention of the consequences of excessive lateness or absenteeism, such as disciplinary action. 

Compensation

Deductions from Salary 

In this clause, the Business should reserve the right to deduct from any payment due to an employee by the Business (including salary) at any time any sums that are owed by an employee to the Business, provided it is permitted to do so by the law.

Superannuation 

Make sure you or your employment lawyer include superannuation obligations. For example, it is a condition of employment that a contribution from an employee’s salary is paid towards a superannuation fund. Currently this payment is either a minimum of 9.5% of the employee’s gross salary or such other amount as required under the superannuation guarantee legislation.

Advise your employees that if they do not inform the business of their choice of a regulated complying fund, their contributions will be invested with the business’ choice of fund.

Withholding of Salary & Other Payments for Tax 

When paying employees their regular wages, it is quite common to include in the Employee Handbook a clause that reminds employees of the employer’s obligation with respect to tax, such as income tax. In general, the Business will withhold income tax from the monthly salaries and other payments of all employees and remit all such amounts to the Australian Taxation Office. This practice is in accordance with the Australian Taxation Office.

Conclusion

If you need an Employee Handbook drafted or reviewed for completeness, contact LegalVision on 1300 544 755. Our team of employment lawyers are experienced in this area of law, and provide advice on a fixed-fee basis. Stay tuned for Part 2 on Leave Entitlements, Dress Code and Safety Gear.

Lachlan McKnight

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