Your employee hand­book is the main tool for set­ting expec­ta­tions between you and your employ­ees. It also helps avoids mis­un­der­stand­ing. You don’t have to have one, but if you don’t, it’s easy to be incon­sis­tent and rely on ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tions which can expose you to legal disputes.

You should imple­ment pro­ce­dures to make sure every employee receives a copy and acknowl­edges receiv­ing the employee hand­book and read­ing it. Make sure you fol­low it and beware of state­ments that mod­ify your right to ter­mi­nate your employ­ees with­out cause (at-will employment).

Keep your hand­book sim­ple. Make sure it includes at-will lan­guage and a descrip­tion of the pro­ce­dure for employ­ment con­tracts. Reserve your right to ter­mi­nate an employee with­out cause.

The hand­book should include items such as hours, pay, ben­e­fits includ­ing paid vaca­tions, health ben­e­fits, sick pay, unpaid leave; whether vaca­tion days can be car­ried into next year; and what hap­pens when an employee quits. It should also include poli­cies on things such as dis­crim­i­na­tion and sex­ual harass­ment, drug and alco­hol abuse, social media, and safety. It should include your dis­ci­pli­nary procedures.

Your hand­book should also include report­ing mech­a­nisms, inves­ti­ga­tion pro­ce­dures, and dis­ci­pli­nary mea­sures such as warn­ings, sus­pen­sions, trans­fers, demo­tions, and ter­mi­na­tions. It should include non-retaliation stan­dards. You might con­sider hav­ing a code of con­duct. If you’re a gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor, the law might require you to have a com­pli­ance and ethics pro­gram in place.