Top HR Mistakes Series...Handbooks

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Next up in our series of the Top Ten HR Mistakes Small Businesses Make…Handbooks!

Why Do I Need a Handbook?

Many small companies think, “why should I spend time (or money) on a handbook? I only have a couple employees!” The fact is, here in California, there are so many required notices to give to each employee at their time of hire that you may as well bind them all into an official handbook! While employees may not read your handbook cover-to-cover with great interest, they will know the handbook is there and is a resource if a question does arise.

Handbooks are also a reference for you, as a manager and/or business owner! When a question comes across your desk, you may not have the correct procedure committed to memory yourself – and showing employees that you reference the handbook as well shows them the importance of the document.  An up-to-date and easily referenceable handbook makes your company look polished and professional, and lets your employees know you take the company, and its employees seriously.

Conversely, If you don’t have a handbook at all, neither you nor your employees have any guidelines or expectations around acceptable conduct and/or performance in your workplace. And if you do have one and you only apply the policies sporadically, you are running the risk of lawsuits from employees who aren’t treated fairly. A handbook customized to your company also satisfies, as noted above,  your duty as an employer to communicate certain policies, in writing, to your employees. It’s a one-stop-shop where both you and your employees can turn to determine the correct course of action for commonly encountered situations.

Living Document

Your handbook should be a living document that changes with your business. Not all the policies you put in place when you had five employees are still applicable now that you have 30; so when you change a policy, change your handbook to reflect that policy. Keeping a living document online, which shows changes and the dates those changes were made, further reinforces to employees the importance of the document, and again helps the management team remember and enforce changes that have been made. Have you ever thought, “hmm….we sent an email out to everyone about this awhile back…but I don’t remember when…”…and then searched your email with every possible key word you can think of for 30 minutes before finding that email? Those days are gone if you update your handbook document as the policies are changed!

Employee Signatures

Employees should always receive a handbook, whether hard copy, pdf, or a web document, on their first day of work. New hire paperwork should include a document where the employee acknowledges their receipt of the handbook, their understanding of the policies and procedures therein, and that disciplinary action may be taken for violation of those policies.

Each company’s handbook will be a little different; reflecting their company culture, their policies and procedures, risk tolerance, and even industry. As long as it’s accurately (and legally!) reflecting your company’s policies, you’re in good shape!

If you need assistance with reviewing a current handbook or creating a new one, get in touch with us at!

The Fine Print: Each employment situation is unique and requires its own analysis, so while we encourage you to use this information as a guideline, it should not be considered legal advice.