Employee Handbooks vs. Policies

Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by G. T. HR

What Is The Difference Between Employee Handbooks And Policies And Procedures Manuals?

An employee handbook is written with employees as the intended audience. It is most often written using a straightforward layout for easy referencing of company policies and procedures and is a vehicle for familiarizing employees with basic company policies and benefit programs, as well as the general expectations of the company, including acceptable and unacceptable behavior and disciplinary measures.

Having a compliant employee handbook is vital in communicating to your employees what they can expect from the Company and what the Company expects from them. It is also vital that your Employee Handbook is compliant with federal and state regulations. You can be confident that your employee handbook is compliant by having it prepared by the experts at MyHRConcierge.

How An Updated Employee Handbook Can Protect Your Business

  • Mitigates exposure to employment-related lawsuits.
  • Provides an easy reference guide so employees understand the benefits you provide.
  • Creates a professional image to your employees that differentiate you from your competitors.
  • Creates confidence within the workplace that your employees know what is expected of them.

Still Not Sure What To Include In An Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook should have several sections so that a wide breadth of information can be offered. Examples of these include:

Company Mission, Vision and Values

Although it’s not necessary, the employee handbook is an ideal place to communicate the company’s mission, vision and values to employees. You may also want to consider including a letter from the CEO or company leadership that reminds employees of their critical role in the company.

Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy

Depending on where your company is located, there may be legal requirements that impact what to include in the anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy. Additionally, some jurisdictions require companies to have an anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy. You may want to have an attorney review your anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy to ensure that you are complying with applicable laws and regulations.

Code of Conduct

The code of conduct is essentially a summary of the expectations for employee behavior while on the job. For instance, the code of conduct may include policies regarding attendance, tardiness, cell phone use and telecommuting. The code of conduct sets clear expectations for employees and management so there are no surprises. In some cases, a code of conduct may also provide a legal defense if an employee alleges that the employer used unfair disciplinary action.

Dress Code

If there is a company dress code, such as a uniform or dress-down Fridays, this should be included in the handbook so all employees understand the wardrobe expectations at all times.

Communications Policy

Given the prevalence of cell phone use and social media, employers should consider including a communications policy in the employee handbook. A communication policy can include information about what is allowed and not allowed regarding company-owned cell phones, computers and devices while on the job, such as social media postings, personal calls or matters and communications with the media.

Compensation and Benefits Information

The employee handbook can be a useful tool to remind employees of benefits that are available to them, as well as any policies and procedures that impact compensation. For instance, if your company provides parental leave beyond what is required by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you should include it in the employee handbook. Similarly, if your remote workplace offers a stipend for computer expenses, you would also want to include this information in the handbook so employees are aware of the benefit and its parameters.

This section should also discuss paid holidays, sick leave, overtime, timekeeping, paid vacation as well the at-will nature of the employment.

PIP Plans

Details about performance improvement plans (PIPs) and procedures for failure to meet performance goals should be provided.

New Hire and Separation Procedures

Issues often arise when an employee quits, is laid off or is fired. A clear policy regarding offboarding procedures can be incredibly helpful in avoiding disputes or confusion. Similarly, the employee handbook can also be an important part of the new employee onboarding process by informing employees of when and how often they are paid (weekly, biweekly, monthly), whether there is a waiting period before benefits start and any relevant standards for promotion.

Procedures for Complaints

The handbook should discuss how employees can make complaints about personnel or job conditions and where to direct them—likely to your human resources department or representative.

Employee Acknowledgment

This is a short statement that is signed by the employee, acknowledging that they have received, reviewed and agree to comply with the policies and procedures outlined in the employee handbook. The acknowledgment should be saved in the employee’s personnel file along with other new hire forms.

Policies And Procedure Are a Smart Tool For Employers

A policies and procedures manual is a comprehensive text that details every aspect of company policy, the procedures for following those policies and the forms needed to complete each process. A policies and procedures manual is a reference tool for managers and supervisors. This tool is much more complete in detail than the employee handbook and should be used for back-up when more information is needed to explain a policy or when a deeper understanding of a process is desired.

As a benefit to management, the manual can contain references to federal and state laws that correlate to each policy. Managers and supervisors then have access to the rationale for the policies, thus providing them with assistance for enforcement.

7 Policies That Have Affected Post-Covid Office Norms

Returning to in-person work is a top priority for many workplaces. As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic lessens, employers are eager to get employees back in their buildings. But that comes with a series of complications. New policies, regarding Vaccinations, PTO, discrimination, remote work, and more have changed the look of HR. By establishing policies and publishing these new policies within your employee handbook, you can protect yourself from damaging and expensive litigation.

The most significant complication is the fact that every workplace decision in the immediate future will be viewed through COVID-19-colored glasses. In other words, while the pandemic may be under control, it’s still top of mind for many people. Knowing this, employers will need to balance policies against health concerns. This means potentially updating preexisting policies or adding new ones to conform to the current reality where employees are still dealing with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., greater dependent responsibilities, health conditions, financial disruptions, etc.).

To assist this effort, we’ve outlined some workplace policies that employers may consider to cover their concerns.

Please note, the law is constantly evolving, and government guidance will continue to affect all these policies moving forward. Employers should contact legal counsel when amending or drafting any workplace policy.

1. Return-to-Work Policy

Some workplaces have stand-alone return-to-work policies that apply to employees temporarily unable to do their jobs due to injury or illness. These policies typically outline how an employee may still contribute to the organization while ill or injured. In other cases, return-to-work policies refer to the specifics of transitioning employees back to their regular positions or alternative arrangements. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may consider revising return-to-work policies to include individuals who are unwilling or unable to return to in-person work due to COVID-19 fears.

2. Travel Policy

Some workplaces require travel for certain positions. During a pandemic, this can make travelers wary. That’s why some employers have adapted their travel policies to limit nonessential travel and specifying precautions that employees should observe while traveling. These policies often include COVID-19 tests, self-quarantining or other measures to ensure the safety of traveling employees.

3. Remote Work Policy

Remote work policies may have been a fringe consideration just a few years ago, but now they’re nearly everywhere. And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been invaluable. That’s why employees and employers alike are looking for ways to retain these arrangements. To that end, employers may want to explore how they can adapt their current remote work policies to accommodate employees even after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Remote work policies typically specify how employees may request remote arrangements and outline the steps in the approval process. Policies may also be adapted to cover hybrid work situations, where employees work some in-person hours and some remote-working hours. Employers interested in such arrangements may consider ways to balance scheduling flexibility with adequate staffing coverage.

4. Paid Time Off Policy

Paid time off (PTO) is one of the most popular employee benefits offerings. Sometimes employees need to take time away from work for personal obligations or to simply recharge. PTO is sometimes separate from vacation time, with different restrictions as to when it may be used. For that reason, employers may choose to adapt their PTO policies to reflect the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic; this may include expanding applicable reasons to request PTO, changing how PTO is accrued or adjusting how much PTO may be used within a certain period. 

5. Vacation Policy
After a period of being cooped up at home, employees may be yearning for vacations. However, if everyone decides to take off at once, that could be crippling to a business. For that reason, employers may wish to review their vacation policies (if separate from PTO policies) to ensure adequate operational coverage at all times.

6. Sick Leave Policy

As with vacation time and PTO, sick leave is another way for employees to take time away from work if they need it. However, this type of leave is subject to specific state and federal employment laws. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, some employees were afforded guaranteed time away from work under specific circumstances. That’s why it’s important for employers to review their sick leave policies to ensure compliance with applicable federal and state laws; this includes continuing to monitor official guidance as it’s released.

7. Workplace COVID-19 Safeguards Policy

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workplaces adopted policies specifically aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. These included enforcing social distancing requirements, spacing out workstations, cleaning shared areas frequently and limiting building capacities. Even as the pandemic winds down, some employers may wish to continue these policies to provide enhanced safety and peace of mind to employees. In addition, some workplaces are introducing COVID-19 vaccination policies.

Review and Revise Your Employee Handbook For Protection.

It is important that you regularly assess your handbook for any gap in compliance. Better yet, implement a handbook monitoring service to ensure compliance in this ever-changing time.

When it comes to returning to work, employers will need to think about how to adjust protocols to best fit their own situations.

MyHRConcierge Provides the Handbook Services You Need

Whether you have a handbook that needs to be reviewed or need a custom one created for you, MyHRConcierge can help. To learn more, contact us at ccooley@myhrconcierge.com, 855-538-6947 ext 108 or schedule a free consultation below.