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Patricia M. Davis, Attorney at Law Helping Houston Businesses for Over 30 Years

I Just Hired My First Employee - Do I Need An Employee Handbook?

Yes! Employee handbooks are not just for companies with a large number of employees. Rather, they are invaluable resources for setting expectations and for providing legal protection should the employee choose to sue later on. While employee handbooks can contain a number of topics, they should cover at least the following:

  • Company summary – This can include the history of your business and its overall vision or purpose.
  • Work hours ­– Define your hours of operation and any stipulations related to part-time employees or overtime.
  • Pay – How does your pay scale work? Do you plan to have any bonus programs for your employee?
  • Benefits – What benefits, if any, do you offer? What does an employee need to do to be eligible for these benefits? These might include sick days, vacation leave, health care coverage, and others.
  • Attendance – Is it important to you that your employee arrive to work on time? Let him or her know by emphasizing it in this section of your handbook.
  • Drugs and alcohol – Explain that drugs and alcohol are not allowed in the workplace. Detail any procedures for dealing with violations in this area. Include an employee assistance program if you plan to offer one.
  • Smoking – When outlining your smoking policy, be sure it aligns with local and state laws.
  • Professionalism in the workplace – Be sure your employee knows you expect him or her to treat others with respect and act professionally at all times.
  • Harassment – Your employee handbook should explain that harassment of any kind is illegal and will not be allowed. List any procedures you plan to use to investigate a complaint and describe the steps that will be taken against policy violators.
  • Non-compete and nondisclosure agreements – These valuable clauses prohibit your employee from working with your direct competitors for a certain amount of time. They also create a legal contract between your employee and yourself, requiring that he or she keep any trade secrets or confidential information related to your company private.
  • Safety – Don't overlook this section of your handbook. Highlight your commitment to safety and let your employee know whom to contact should conditions be unsafe.
  • Discipline – Offer examples of the types of behavior that will be cause for discipline, and explain what form(s) the discipline will take. Be sure you remind your employee that your list of examples is not comprehensive.

Employee handbooks can be helpful tools for business owners or managers and employees alike. However, be sure this tool cannot be used against you. When writing your handbook, don't box yourself in by guaranteeing job security or by hinting that the handbook is exhaustive in any way. Be sure limitations are stated clearly rather than implied.

If you are expanding your business by hiring employees, a skilled Houston business attorney can provide helpful legal counsel. With more than 28 years of experience, I have helped variety of organizations find the right legal moves to enhance their business. Learn more about what I can offer by scheduling an initial consultation. Contact Patricia M. Davis, Attorney at Law today!