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A handbook is vital if you have employees

Even if your small business only employs a few people, you may want to create an employee handbook. Without one, you could leave your company -- and possibly yourself, depending on your entity structure -- vulnerable to legal actions.

Many employee complaints occur because there are no known standard rules that apply to everyone. Not only does this include policies, but also procedures for issues such as harassment, retaliation and discrimination. These three issues cause the majority of employee claims, along with wage and hour disputes.

The more they know

The more information your employees have regarding what you expect of them, what they can expect of you and what happens when someone breaks the rules, the less likely they will need to file a complaint outside the company. They need to know that you care about giving them a safe and hostility-free workplace. They also need to know they will receive fair treatment in all areas of their employment. More specifically, your employees may want to see the following issues addressed, at a minimum:

  • Terms of employment
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Payroll deductions
  • Time and attendance
  • Telecommuting
  • Paid time off
  • Dress code
  • Overtime
  • Safety
  • Company policies
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Business travel
  • Intellectual property
  • Social media
  • Cannabis
  • Mobile devices

Perhaps one of the most crucial inclusions in your employee handbook involves discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Federal and Ohio laws protect certain groups from these activities, and your company should prohibit them in accordance with them. You may want to expressly address as many possible scenarios as possible in your handbook, as well as outline how your company intends to deal with complaints.

In fact, all of the contents of your employee handbook need to comply with state and federal laws. You may need the assistance of a knowledgeable employment law attorney in order to ensure that you do not inadvertently open up your company, and possibly yourself, to legal action. The other purpose of a well-put-together handbook is to provide the first step in a paper trail if you do end up facing a lawsuit or other inquiry from an employee.

Be sure to get signatures

Yes, this section does deserve to be set apart from the information above. An acknowledgement form goes a long way toward preventing an employee from alleging that he or she did not know about a certain policy or procedure. The acknowledgement from each employee should make it clear that he or she read and understood the contents of the employee handbook.

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