What You Need To Know About Employee Handbooks April 16 2015

Though no legislation exists in Canada requiring employers to have an employee handbook, it is in every organization’s best interest to have one. A good employee handbook acts as a valuable communication tool for employers and serves as a reference guide for employees, thereby avoiding common misunderstandings and unreasonable expectations.

Regardless of company size, the benefits of implementing an employee handbook are endless. Employee handbooks are intended to enforce workplace policies and procedures; establish clear employment standards; reduce employee misconduct; promote consistent management and administration of the policies and procedures; demonstrate a commitment to equal treatment of employees; and relay important information such as company history, philosophy, and goals.

Most importantly, a well-drafted handbook is a source of legal protection for an organization by setting clear expectations and standards that employees must comply with. Clearly communicated and consistently enforced policies also help to support disciplinary action and avoid charges of discrimination or unfair treatment.

When developing a new employee handbook it is essential to confirm whether the policies comply with employment standards laws of each jurisdiction in which it will be used. We recommend reviewing your employee handbook on a semi-annual basis to ensure it accurately reflects the reality of your organization and addresses changing laws and regulations. It is also important to advise employees to any policy updates or new policies added during the revision process.

When introducing a new handbook or changes to an existing one, employees should sign an acknowledgement that they received a copy of the handbook and it is their responsibility to read and understand the policies contained within the handbook. An “Employee Handbook Receipt Acknowledgment” template can be found on our website in the Resource Centre under Forms.

There are several key elements that should be included in an employee handbook. In addition to the policies and procedures that are legally required in the provinces where your employees work, we recommend including the following items:

  • Privacy Policy –outline the mechanisms for accessing and revising personal information.
  • Termination Policy – set some ground rules related to terminations and ensure they are consistently followed.
  • Progressive Discipline Policy – define employee misconduct and explain the consequences of such actions.
  • Absenteeism Policy – spell out the expectations for all employees and establish a system for measuring and dealing with absenteeism.
  • Overtime Policy – express when and how overtime will be allowed, documented and compensated.
  • Work Impairment Policy –outline the rules surrounding alcohol and drug consumption in the workplace.
  • Conflict of Interest Policy – state what constitutes a conflict of interest and when the consequences may be if the employee is found to be in a conflict of interest.
  • Telephone and Network Use – communicate to employees that the use of computers and phones are for business purposes and that employees should not have any expectation of privacy in the use of company owned technology.

In addition to the policies noted above, your handbook should cover other relevant information needed by employees as part of their daily work life, such as your dress code, pay periods, holidays, vacations, sick days, leaves of absences, employee benefits, performance appraisals, workplace violence and harassment and other pertinent housekeeping issues. These policy templates can be found in the Resource Center of our website.

Lastly, employers should make the handbook accessible to all employees. This can be done on your company’s intranet, a portal, company computer, by having a printed copy available in the lunchroom, with supervisors or in the office. We recommend providing new employees with a copy of the handbook during their orientation to help them become familiar with your organizational policies and procedures.

Don’t Have An Employee Handbook?

We make developing an employee handbook easy. Visit the Resource Centre of our website to create your own handbook today! This handbook can be accessed at any time from the My HR Files page.

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