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Is it time to draft a handbook for your business?

When you started your business, you may have had a handful of employees, most of whom were your family. The growth of your business meant bringing more employees on board. While this is an exciting indication of your success, it also increases the risk of misunderstandings that may place you and your company at risk of lawsuits by your employees.

One way businesses can reduce the chances of confusion that can lead to litigation is by creating an employee handbook that provides workers with a uniform presentation of vital information. You can certainly go online and download a generic handbook template, but a surer way of creating a document that will match your company's unique dynamic is to seek the guidance of a legal professional.

How is a handbook useful?

After hiring a new employee, you can present him or her with a copy of your handbook or direct your employee to the digital version. Encourage your employee to spend some time reading and learning the important information you have provided, including:

  • A history and philosophy of your company, its goals and how your employees fit into that plan
  • Attendance rules, including weather-related policies
  • Disciplinary steps, including termination procedures
  • Work expectations and examples of conduct you will not tolerate, such as alcohol or drug use
  • Definitions of exempt and non-exempt statuses
  • Instructions for submitting complaints or allegations of harassment or discrimination
  • Information about workers' compensation, if it applies to your business
  • Explanations of restrictive contracts, like non-disclosure, non-compete and confidentiality agreements

It is important that your employees understand that the handbook is not a contract even if you ask them to sign a statement confirming that they have read the book. In fact, your handbook may also include a disclaimer to that effect. The main purpose of the handbook is to provide the same information to all employees so they can know what you expect of them and so you can treat everyone fairly and consistently.

Because your handbook is likely to include policies for employee conduct, termination, compensation and other legal matters, you would be wise to work closely with an attorney as you draft and compile this document. Your attorney can review your policies and advise you on how to make the handbook language precise and clear for everyone who uses it. Knowing that your handbook complies with Kentucky employment laws may be another benefit of having legal guidance.

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  1. Charles W. Dobbins, Jr.

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