The Employee Handbook

By Sharon Naylor

July 21, 2014 5 min read

When you start a new job, one of the first things you'll receive is an employee handbook. It may be a printed and bound booklet, or in this digital age, it might be a link to an online document on your company's intranet. In it, you'll find all of the details of what's expected of you as an employee and what you can expect from your employer. Companies take these handbooks seriously and often invest money in having their attorneys and human resources directors write them carefully and completely, because they spell out the rules you'll be expected to abide by.

For instance, your employee handbook will contain a full listing of your employee benefits, such as the details of your health care coverage and a link to where you can create your online account to manage your medical claim forms, find doctors in your network and learn which types of medical services are covered by your plan. This is essential information for you and your family.

You'll also read about the things that could potentially get you fired, such as being late a certain number of times or violating company rules about using social media.

The experts at professional staffing company Robert Half point out some of the top categories of information you'll find in your initial employee handbook, as well as in updated editions you may be given during the years of your employment. If you've been with your company awhile, don't assume you know all the rules. Read through that new employee handbook to find out what might have changed and whether there are new categories, such as a company policy on sending personal emails on company time. Here is some of the most important information your employee handbook could contain:

*General Information and Employee Benefits

--Welcome statement from the CEO.

--EEOC policy statement (including policies on sexual and other forms of discrimination and harassment and the proper procedure for reporting such conduct).

--Company history and overview.

--Company mission statement and values.

--Health, safety and security rules and procedures, including fire-exit maps.

--Parking and transportation information, including maps and permit details.

--Standards of conduct and disciplinary procedures.

--Performance appraisal procedures.

--Employee benefit information, including available health care and dental insurance coverage, pension, deferred-income and retirement programs, paid time-off benefits (including company holidays, vacation time and sick days), leaves of absence, and eligibility requirements.

*Additional Company Policies and Procedures

--Essential company rules, such as work hours, and attendance, timekeeping and payroll practices.

--Business ethics and professional standards of conduct.

--Technology policies, such as email policies and social media use guidelines.

--How the company handles complaints and disciplinary proceedings.

--Information about use and display of your company ID.

--Information about preserving the confidentiality of company documents, such as the employee handbook.

One of the interesting elements in an employee handbook concerns company dress code, which may include guidelines on what to wear on a regular workday, any summertime or "casual Friday" dress codes, and "what to wear when meeting with clients," say Robert Half experts.

As much as you'll learn about what's expected of you, you'll also see what your employer promises you, which can be handy to have in print if you experience any workplace harassment or other uncomfortable issues in the workplace that could lead to your filing a complaint or even contesting what you feel is unfair termination.

Your employer may require you to sign a declaration that you have received and read your employee handbook, and this confirmation will be filed in your employee records. If you break a rule at your company, you cannot then claim that you weren't aware of a policy. So take the time to familiarize yourself with everything in your employee handbook. And if anything is confusing, make an appointment to speak with a human resources professional in your office to clarify any terms, benefits, rules or procedures.

In addition to protecting your employment, you may also find some wonderful employee benefits such as discounts on car rentals, free admission to company conferences and other money-saving perks. There are many bits of valuable information in your employee handbook, so don't ignore it. And if you have kids starting their first jobs, advise them to value their company handbook, as well.

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