Crafting an Employee Handbook: Tips, Advice and Best Practices

An employee handbook is an important document for any company. It informs employees of the policies, procedures, and expectations that guide their behavior in the workplace. It also provides important information about the company and its vision, mission and goals.

Creating an employee handbook pdf that employees actually want to read can be complicated. It’s important to be precise, but it is also important to make sure you include all the necessary information. You need to find the right balance between communicative and overloaded.

In this post, we will look at why an employee manual is so important for your company. We will examine what information you should be included in yours, and provide tips to help you write an informative and engaging manual for your employees.

    • What is an Employee Handbook?
    • Purpose and Benefits
    • What Should I Include?
    • Code of Conduct
    • Policies and Procedures
    • Compensation and Benefits
    • Other Things To Include
    • Things to Avoid
    • Tips and Best Practices
    • Employee Handbook Software


What is an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook is a document created by Human Resources. It states your legal obligations as an employer and the rights of your employees. It is an essential resource so it is important to get it right.

The document is given to all new starters to ensure onboarding best practices are met. The handbook is provided in either a digital or hard copy, and it should tell new staff everything they need to know about the company. This can include company policies, procedures, codes of conduct, and information relating to compensation and benefits. The document should detail what an employee’s rights are, and what they can expect from the employer. It establishes guidelines and expectations for employees and safeguards the company if those expectations are not met.

Writing an employee handbook word template can be confusing. All too often companies will fill their handbook with too much technical jargon which puts people off reading it. A good handbook can help a company create a positive company culture, but it must be clear, focused, and well written.

Purpose and Benefits of an Employee Handbook Template

Although there are no federal or state laws requiring an employer to have an employee manual, there are many benefits to writing and distributing an effective handbook.  A well-written handbook can serve as a valuable resource for new and existing staff at all levels of your company.

  • It helps you define all your company policies, procedures, and working practices. This makes it easier to update them on a regular basis.
  • Clear guidelines show employees that there is consistency for all employees. This will help prevent misunderstandings, complaints and job dissatisfaction.
  • It helps ensure hr compliance laws with state and federal employment laws.
  • It provides new employees with an introduction to your company. This can help them feel settled and increase engagement and loyalty. It can also help them integrate with the team.
  • A handbook is a useful resource for checking dress codes, parking recommendations, maternity rights, etc. This means that your HR department will spend less time responding to queries.
  • It improves communication. People know what they need to do in a given situation.
  • A well-designed handbook can help mitigate conflict between employees and the company. It sets clear expectations for employees and safeguards the company if those expectations are not met.
  • It can help to create a safe and positive workplace culture built on established policies and procedures.

Template for Employee Handbook: What Should I Include in My Employee Manual?

Generally speaking, an HR handbook should include your policies, expectations, and legal obligations as an employer.

Important information to include in your template for employee handbook:

  • The company’s culture, vision, values, and mission.
  • Legal employment rights and obligations.
  • Expectations: employer and employee.
  • Company policies and procedures.

A company’s handbook should be tailored to its business needs and culture. It should tell the company’s “story” and help employees understand its goals and mission statement. What does the company do? When was it founded? Why? How would you describe your work culture? And your company values? This will help new and current employees understand the common goals of the company.

The employee handbook should be provided to all new recruits and be available in both hard and digital formats. Terms should be revised frequently and updated whenever there are changes in state or federal laws or internal policies.

Code of Conduct 

A company employee handbook for small business or large business is a perfect opportunity to introduce new employees to your code of conduct: how they should act when they are at work. This includes how they dress, how they conduct themselves, how they communicate, and what safety standards they must adhere to.

The code of conduct should provide clear standards and guidelines for behavior. It should be inclusive, considerate, and respectful. Ultimately, it should be the first place your employees look when they have queries about conduct and ethics.

Your code of conduct should include:

  • Code of ethics and professional conduct. What principles govern the decisions and behavior of the company? Is there a designated smoking area? Are relationships between employees discouraged? Can employees buy shares from competitors? Is there a zero-tolerance policy in the company?
  • Dress code. Formal or casual? Are tattoos and piercings allowed? Can employees wear shorts in hot weather?
  • Workplace safety, such as mandatory use of PPE in certain areas if relevant.
  • Attendance requirements, including meal breaks and rest periods.
  • Procedures for conflict resolution.
  • Cybersecurity and digital devices. Can employees access social media platforms? Can they take company laptops, tablets or smartphones, home? Is remote working ever allowed?

Although you shouldn’t go into too much detail, the code of conduct should set expectations and establish the consequences for not meeting those expectations.

Company Policies and Procedures of your Employee Handbook Template

Once you have created your company story and code of conduct, you need to think about what policies you are going to include in your handbook. Some must be communicated to employees by law, and others will depend on your internal guidelines and procedures.

The website for the United States Department of Labor is a useful resource for cross-checking employment laws relating to equal employment opportunity, family and medical leave, and other benefits. You also need to stay up to date with state requirements to determine what to include in your employee policy handbook. Don’t forget…follow the employee handbook laws too!


The following policies must be communicated by law in your employee handbook sample template:

  • Equal employment and non-discrimination policies. Make it clear that the company will not tolerate discrimination or harassment in any form and explain what the consequences will be.
  • Family medical leave policies. A requirement of the Family Medical Leave Act. Many states also have their own policies regarding unpaid family leave.
  • Worker’s compensation policies. Many states require that employees be informed of worker’s compensation policies in writing.

You should include information in this section so that employees know what to do in the event they detect policy violations. You should also include a disclaimer confirming that the handbook can be updated at any time at the employer’s discretion.

Compensation and Benefits 

Another important thing to include in your handbook is information relating to compensation and benefits. This should include work hours, pay grade structure, timekeeping, overtime, and rest periods. You could also talk about stock options, if you offer them, and your appraisal process.

Aside from compensation and working conditions, your handbook should provide a general overview of any benefits that you offer, including health care and dental insurance. Don’t go into too much detail but you could mention what you offer, who is eligible, and what the criteria are.

If your company has any reward or incentive schemes then this is the perfect place to include them. These can help motivate employees, create a healthy working environment, and reduce absenteeism.

Examples of incentive schemes include:

  • Annual incentive bonuses with specific goals
  • Bonus vacation time if 0 sick days are taken in a given period
  • Health and wellness perks such as yoga classes and gym memberships
  • Flexible schedules and remote working
  • Profit-sharing options
  • Team retreats
  • Professional development support

Employee Handbook Examples of Other Things You Can Include

The following suggestions are optional but they will help ensure your handbook is as comprehensive and informative as possible. An employee handbook creator template will often include additional content.

Additional employee handbook examples of  contents:

  • A welcome letter from the company
  • Communication policies
  • Policies for workplace visitors
  • Drugs and alcohol policy
  • At-will employment policy
  • Health and safety policy
  • Sick and annual leave policy
  • Paid time off policy
  • Maternity/Paternity leave policy
  • The assessment process for promotions and raises
  • Incentive and rewards policies
  • Employee dating policy
  • Employee complaints policy
  • Notice and disclaimer
  • A form to sign saying they’ve read the staff handbook and agree to the terms

Things to Avoid in Your Handbook for Employees

Never include the following as part of the employee handbook contents:

  • Overly complicated or outdated policies
  • Restrictive disciplinary procedures
  • Empty promises. Be honest about what your company does, where it is going, and what the company culture is like.
  • Specific information about health insurance policies. Keep it brief and focus on benefits and eligibility, not insurance carriers and specific policies that could change.
  • The phrase “permanent position”. If your contracts are “at will” then this will create unrealistic expectations. To the same effect, use the “introductory period” instead of the “probationary period”.

How Do I Write a Good Employee Handbook Online?

Here are some tips to help you write an informative employee handbook online that your employees will actually read:

  • Before you start writing, take some time to think about what you want to include. What message do you want to transmit about your company? How should your story be told? Do you care what employees wear? What are your values and objectives as an employer? If you have specific expectations, make sure they are included.
  • Think about the tone you want to use. Do you want it to be formal or informal? Make sure it is not too negative. Focus on incentives rather than punishment.
  • Use clear language. Only include the necessary information and avoid jargon. Content should be useful and engaging and help your employees understand the company. If it is too long and confusing then nobody will read it.
  • Use visuals and avoid large blocks of text. Use lots of headers so it is easier for employees to find what they are looking for.
  • Make sure employees can access the handbook whenever they need to. Save a copy on the company intranet, email a copy to all employees, and provide hard copies if requested.
  • Review your handbook frequently to make sure it complies with legal requirements.

Employee Handbook Free Template vs. Employee Handbook Software 

One way to manage your handbook for employees and to make sure it can be easily accessed by all employees using an employee handbook software solution. The best thing to do is start off with an employee handbook free template, and then upload the completed employee handbook to your employee portal within your HR software. Software such as Factorial for Human Resources can help you create, distribute, and update your handbook as often as you need. You can use human resources templates to design your layout, check legal compliance, and remind you when the document needs to be updated. Ultimately, it will make it easier for employees to access up to date policies.

The right handbook can help increase job satisfaction, loyalty and engagement among employees. It provides useful information and represents the culture and values of the company. Give it the time and respect it deserves, and make sure it is as clear and engaging as possible.