Employee Handbook

First published on Thursday, Mar 16, 2023

Last updated on Monday, Jul 08, 2024

An employee handbook is a valuable tool to communicate with your employees about your business operations. It can provide your employees guidance about the company and the goals it wants to accomplish. As well as important policies pertaining to everything from workplace violence and harassment, dress codes, disciplinary and performance procedures, and more.

A general employee handbook is an easily accessible guide for all employees. It is important that you as an employer ensure that your staff have a copy that is kept updated whenever there are changes.

In this guide, we’ll explain what an employee handbook is, how to develop one for your business, and the importance of having one.

What is an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook is a compilation of information and valuable resources for employees that can help guide them to understand your business. It can also protect employers from potential workplace harassment or discrimination claims by establishing such policies.

What Goes in an Employee Handbook?

Your company’s employee handbook should be specific to your company and the contents within may vary depending on the industry you are in. However, the most common employee handbook contents include:

  • Company policies.
  • Company value or mission statement.
  • Legal policies.
  • Benefits information.
  • Employee rights.

What Kind of Company Policies Should I put in an Employee Handbook?

There are many types of company policies that you can include in your employee handbook. Some common company policies include:

  • Company dress code.
  • Attendance policy.
  • Equal opportunity policy.
  • Workplace violence and harassment policies.
  • Disciplinary policy.

Additionally, there may be legislated policies that employers must have in place. For example, employers in Ontario with 25 or more employees must develop written policies about the right to disconnect and electronic monitoring. This is in accordance with employment standards legislation. These policies may be standalone documents or included in the employee handbook to ensure legal compliance.

What Should I Do When I Need to Update the Employee Handbook?

If you want to introduce a new policy or procedure, you should update your employee handbook with the addendum. When updating the handbook, you should inform your employees of the update, give a brief summary or purpose of the new policy, and provide a fresh copy of the employee handbook.

You should send a copy of the revised employee handbook via email and require all employees to send a response indicating that they have read and understand the new policy or procedure.

How Often Should I Update my Employee Handbook?

The employment law landscape is ever-changing. So, it’s important that your employee handbook is up to date with changing legislation and policies. Even if there are no required changes to the employee handbook, the document should be reviewed on at least an annual basis.

Remember, your employee handbook is not just for employees. It should be a unifying document that opens the door for two-way communications about the workplace and expectations for management, board members, and independent contractors.

What If I Don’t Have an Employee Handbook?

If you do not have an employee handbook for your business, your employees may not be aware of crucial workplace policies. If employees are unaware of such policies, they may act in a manner contrary to your expectations.

If you do not currently have an employee handbook in place, it is recommended that you implement one.

Why is an Employee Handbook Important?

An employee handbook is a valuable tool. It gives staff a variety of information about policies in your company. It also helps them understand the process for handling behavioral and/or performance issues and details what is, and what is not, acceptable in the workplace.

When developed well, an employee handbook can protect your business and it’s assets from employee misbehavior or unacceptable practices in the workplace.

How To Create an Employee Handbook

When developing your own employee handbook, there are a few tips that can assist you. Let’s look at these in more detail:

  • Know your history: Your company’s history and objectives can help set the tone of your handbook. The information in your handbook should be conveyed as closely to your company’s history as possible.
  • Identify required policies: There are various required policies that should be contained in your employee handbook. Policies such as workplace violence and harassment are required by law. Others such as dress code policies are not legally required but are recommended to ensure staff dress appropriately in the workplace.
  • Draft policies that reflect company values: Many employers draft policies to what is required by the law. However, you should also consider your company values or workplace culture.
  • Gather feedback: Ask employees how they feel about your handbook and be open to suggestions. Getting feedback from staff can ensure there are diverse viewpoints encompassed in the handbook.

As you're building your employee handbook, you should also develop training for supervisors on how to:

  • Interpret and apply the policies.
  • Introduce and distribute the handbook.
  • Review and update the handbook as laws or company practices change.

How Can I Avoid Legal Liability with an Employee Handbook?

While employee handbooks cannot help you avoid legal claims, they can help mitigate the effects or frequency of them. When there are situations of violence and harassment in the workplace, the employee handbook can assist employees with identifying the process of reporting such issues.

This can help limit the employer’s legal liability under the human rights and occupational health & safety legislation.

Get Advice on Employee Handbooks with BrightHR

If you need assistance with developing your own employee handbook or introducing new company policies, our BrightAdvice service allows you to receive quality advice on any employment issues you may have.

Contact us on 18882204924 or book a demo today.

Lucy Cobb

Employment Law Specialist

Share this article

More on contracts

Domestic Workers

Throughout the world, people are often hired to look after someone’s children or to take care of the family home – and this is no different in ...

Read more about Domestic Workers

Retail Workers

Over two million people are working in retail in Canada, with a significant increase in retail workers during the holidays. Before hiring staff for ...

Read more about Retail Workers

Continuity of Employment

Businesses can change ownership from time to time, but what happens to employees once this happens is extremely important. The last thing you want is ...

Read more about Continuity of Employment

Employee Record Retention

As an employer, you’re required to maintain employee records for each member of staff. These confidential records must be kept during and after ...

Read more about Employee Record Retention

Fixed-Term Contracts

It’s important for every employer to establish terms of employment with their employees. Most employees are hired indefinitely – which means there is ...

Read more about Fixed-Term Contracts
Person working at window

Changing Employees Working Hours

Many companies operate on varying work hours. This can lead employers to believe changing employees working hours whenever they want is ...

Read more about Changing Employees Working Hours

Flexible Working

As the world of work evolves and adapts to new challenges, one of the most common and popular innovations is flexible working. This work model allows ...

Read more about Flexible Working

Foreign Workers

Foreign workers are a significant part of Canada’s job market. As Canadian employers continue to look for candidates to fill empty job positions, ...

Read more about Foreign Workers

Terms of Employment

Hiring an employee is an investment, and it’s important that you and your staff understand roles, rights, and responsibilities during their ...

Read more about Terms of Employment