When you're starting a new business, you have many things to juggle — and putting together your employee handbook is likely an afterthought. Similarly, if you already have a business but haven't updated your handbook in years, you're probably not that worried about it. However, the employee handbook can stand between your business and potential litigation. A handbook will also help you mediate employee disagreements and back you up when enforcing company policies. That's why it's worth devoting some time now to the handbook, so you don't miss a few oft-overlooked topics.

Before You Begin...

Contact HR Consulting Firms if you're worried about perfecting the employee handbook. There are local and federal requirements you need to meet if you want your handbook to protect you from litigation. If you recently moved your business from another state or even another city, be aware these requirements change based on location.
Outsource the task to HR consulting professionals rather than deal with it all yourself. Not only does this save you time, but it can save you from the headache of dealing with employee disagreements or litigation if you don't put it together correctly. At the very least, ask an HR professional to look over what you've put together and give you suggestions for improving it.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends including copies of the standard non-disclosure agreements (NDA) in the employee handbook, even though they're not legally required. NDAs protect your company's ideas, promotional strategies and trade secrets. Clearly define from the start what you expect of each employee when it comes to protecting your company's property so you can point to the agreement and the handbook whenever issues arise. Have new employees sign the agreement at the same time; the copy in the handbook is purely for reference.

Anti-Discrimination Policies

There are a number of legal requirements businesses must meet to comply with anti-discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. Outlining your company's anti-discrimination policies in the company handbook is one of them. Whether you currently have a person with disabilities on staff or not, you need to confirm your hiring and employment policies do not discriminate against people with disabilities — or do not discriminate based on gender, race, religion or sexual orientation, for that matter. Even including anti-discrimination policies for age, other than meeting minimum working age laws, can protect your company.

Also include your company's policies on dealing with harassment that occurs between employees in this section.


Including a basic overview of compensation policies in the handbook will prove useful for questions about wages, overtime, raises, bonuses, employment taxes and the maximum or minimum number of hours each employee can work. For example, if you don't want to answer constant questions about raises, include a policy that raises only occur during annual reviews. If you don't have to compensate for overtime work due to employees being salaried or some other reason, include that in the information as well.

Medical Leave Policies

At some point, one or more of your employees will need time off from work to recuperate from injuries, illnesses and surgeries — for themselves or for family members. Likewise, expectant mothers need time off for the birth of their child and expectant fathers will need time off, too. Take note of local and federal requirements for medical leave, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and see how they apply to your business.

You must meet all mandated requirements, but you can enact your more comprehensive medical leave policies, too. Outline them in the handbook rather than deal with them on a case-by-case basis; employees will likely find it unfair if you don't offer them all equal leave.

The employee handbook isn't just the introduction a new employee has to your business, it's an important guidebook that you and your employees will continue to consult. If you don't have the time to put together a thorough handbook, have a team of professionals help you. To protect your business from legal complications, it's worth having a professional oversee your handbook.

The Author Faye K. Crosby is a contributing writer and small-business owner. She credits National PEO for helping her small business with HR tasks, like drafting the employee handbook, so she can focus on sales and marketing.