Policies for your handbook

Employee Handbook Core Policies

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Handbook Basics

What should come first in an employee handbook?

An employee handbook should begin with an introduction that sets the tone for the document (and your company) and establishes the purpose and scope of the handbook. Here are some items to consider including in the first section of your handbook. Feel free to copy and paste this language into your handbook!

Welcome statement

Start with a friendly welcome statement that expresses appreciation for employees and emphasizes the importance of their contributions to the company.

Here's an example of a welcome statement:

On behalf of [Company name], let us extend a warm and sincere welcome. We hope you will enjoy your work here and we are glad to have you with us. We understand that it is our employees who provide the services that our customers rely upon. We believe that each employee contributes directly to [Company name’s] growth and success.

We hope that your experience here will be challenging, enjoyable, and rewarding. We are excited to have you as part of our team!

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Equal employment opportunity statement

An Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) statement is a declaration made by an employer that outlines its commitment to providing equal employment opportunities to all job applicants and employees, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or any other protected characteristic.

The EEO statement typically appears in an employer's job postings, employee handbook, and other employment-related documents. The statement should be clear, concise and should communicate the employer's commitment to fair employment practices.

Here’s an example of an EEO statement:

[Company name] is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate against employees or applicants on the basis of an individual’s race, creed, gender, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, marital status, gender identity, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other status protected by applicable law. This policy applies to all terms, conditions, and privileges of employment, including but not limited to recruitment, hiring, placement, compensation, promotion, discipline, and termination.

[Company name] is committed to complying with all applicable provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It is our policy not to discriminate against any qualified employee or applicant with regard to any terms or conditions of employment because of such an individual's disability. Consistent with this policy of non-discrimination, the company will evaluate requests for accommodation via the interactive process and will provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability, as defined in the ADA, who has made the company aware of their disability, provided such accommodation does not constitute an undue hardship to the company. The company reserves the right to propose an alternative accommodation, so long as such accommodation is equally effective in accommodating the disability.

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Employment-at-will statement

Employment at will means that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason or no reason at all, with or without notice.

This means that an employer can terminate an employee's employment for any reason that is not prohibited by law, such as discrimination based on protected characteristics like race, gender, or religion. Similarly, an employee can leave their job for any reason or no reason at all, without providing any notice to the employer.

There are some important caveats where at-will employment doesn’t apply. Union agreements, employment contracts, and some state laws create some exceptions. To stay out of hot water, it's important for both employers and employees to understand the employment-at-will relationship and how it affects their rights and responsibilities in the workplace. Here’s an example of an employment-at-will policy:

Where applicable by law, employment with [Company name] may be terminated for any reason, with or without cause or notice, at any time, by you or the company. Nothing in this Employee Handbook or in any oral or written statement shall limit the right to terminate employment-at-will unless otherwise dictated by state law. Only the President of the company shall have any authority to enter into an employment agreement with any employee providing for employment other than at-will and any such agreement must be in writing.

This policy of at-will employment is the sole and entire agreement between you and [Company name] as to the duration of employment and the circumstances under which your employment may be terminated.

With the exception of employment-at-will, the terms and conditions of employment with [Company name] may be modified at the sole discretion of the company, with or without cause or notice, at any time. No implied contract concerning any employment-related decision or term or condition of employment can be established by any other statement, conduct, policy, or practice.

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Handbook Disclaimer Statement

An employee handbook disclaimer is a statement that appears in an employee handbook and clarifies that the handbook is not a contract of employment and does not create any contractual rights or obligations between the employer and the employee. The purpose of the disclaimer is to protect the employer from potential legal claims and to ensure that the handbook is not interpreted as a binding agreement.

Usually, an employee handbook disclaimer will state that the policies and procedures contained within it may be modified, revised, or eliminated at any time, without notice. The disclaimer may also indicate that the handbook does not alter the at-will nature of the employment relationship and that employment can be terminated by either the employer or the employee at any time, with or without cause.

Here’s an example of a Handbook Disclaimer Statement (sometimes titled as “About this Handbook”):

This handbook was developed to describe the policies, programs, and benefits available to eligible employees. It is important to read, understand, and comply with all provisions of the handbook.

This handbook should not be construed as an employment agreement or contract and does not guarantee any contractual rights. It’s also important to remember that this handbook provides general guidelines and that other information, such as benefit plans, will be described in other documents.

This handbook states only general company guidelines. [Company name] may, at any time, in its sole discretion, modify or vary from anything stated in this handbook, with or without notice, except for the rights of the parties to terminate employment-at-will and to the degree that such variance is compliant with all applicable federal and state laws.

This handbook supersedes and replaces any and all personnel policies and manuals previously distributed or made available to employees.

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Add a great mission statement

A good mission statement should communicate an organization's purpose, values, and goals. It should be brief enough to be easily understood and remembered, yet comprehensive enough to convey the organization's main objectives.

Here are some elements that a good mission statement can include:

  • Purpose: The statement should define the organization's reason for existing, its core business, and what the company is trying to do in the world.
  • Values: The statement should express the values and principles it believes in.
  • Target audience: The statement should identify the primary audience that the company serves.
  • Differentiation: This is optional but can be helpful to clarify your unique value.  Explain what sets the organization apart from its competitors.

Here are two examples:

This mission statement reflects Patagonia's commitment to creating high-quality outdoor gear while minimizing its environmental impact. It emphasizes the company's core values of sustainability, social responsibility, and innovation, and its goal of using its business to make a positive difference in the world.

Patagonia: "Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."

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This mission statement reflects Tesla's mission to promote renewable energy and reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels. It emphasizes the company's innovative spirit and its vision of a more sustainable future, and it inspires employees and customers alike to join Tesla in its mission to create a cleaner, healthier planet.

Tesla: "To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy."

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