Employee Handbook – Top Must-Have Policies

The Handbook is a tool to communicate and establish a trusting relationship with your employees.  If you use it wisely, you can set out expectations and help avoid conflicts and misunderstandings.

Use the Handbook to explain your company goals and mission statement.  If you only have a few policies, make sure these are included.


First, add a disclaimer.  State, in bold, and preferably on its own page that:  This Handbook is not a contract of employment and you are employed at-will.  This provision helps to prevent an employee from suing the employer claiming breach of contract.

Code of Conduct

Let employees know what you expect by using this policy to explain conduct expectations of your employees, including ethics, honesty, maintaining confidentiality, and preventing conflict of interest.  In this policy, set out the kind of gifts they may accept or give and when it is prohibited.

Preventing Harassment and Discrimination

Your policy must state that your company has a zero tolerance for harassment and discrimination of any kind.  You can be liable for harassment and discrimination based on the legally protected categories of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, and sexually orientation or gender identity.  Be sure you provide several ways for the employee to complain, for example to Human Resources and to a company Vice President.  State you will keep the complaint as confidential as possible, that an investigation may result, and that action will be taken as appropriate.

Leave Policies

Give your employee a clear understanding of the types of leave for which he or she is eligible and for how long.  Define holidays, vacation time, sick days, jury duty, victim leave, Family Medical Leave (if available), bereavement, military leave, election (voting) leave, and workers’ compensation leave.  Explain how to get approval for leave and how to record leave in your timekeeping system.

Workplace Violence

Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace, so react appropriately when violence occurs or is threatened.  Have a zero tolerance policy for employees who commit violence or make threats in the workplace.  Provide guidance on how to respond when violence is suspected or when an employee feels unsafe or threatened.  Include guidance on domestic violence, which spills over to the workplace in several ways, including when a spouse or partner is threatened at work, impacting co-workers, who may also feel threatened.  Don’t ignore threats of any kind.


Let employees know of your expectation regarding ethical behavior toward clients, customers and each other, as well as reminding them of their duty of loyalty toward their employer.  Include a tie in to the mission statement, company vision and values.

 Corrective Action

Give your employees a clear understanding of how your accountability and disciplinary process works.  Include guidance on resolving disputes, and who to contact with questions or concerns.

Drug & Alcohol

Your policy must state that there is zero tolerance for use of drugs or alcohol in the workplace or while performing any work-related duties, regardless of medical marijuana cardholder status.  Detail any pre-employment, post-accident or random screening procedures that you may implement.  Provide any guidance on counseling options which may be available through company health plans or EAPs.


Not all employers offer benefits.  If you do, make sure you provide a least a general description of any benefit plans made available to employees.  Include eligibility information, how to enroll, and open enrollment information as well as who to contact for further information and assistance.

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