Are These 5 Things Missing from your Employee Handbook?


Updating or completing an employee handbook can be a big project—one that you might be eager to cross off your to-do list.

You may have covered all your top-line priority items. But before you move on, we’ve identified five important but commonly overlooked items that you don’t want to leave out of your employee handbook. After all, this is your opportunity to make a first impression with new hires and set the tone for their experience working with your company and your team.

  1. Social Media Policy

One of the telltale signs of an out-of-date company policy is when its missing a section on social media. The use of social media can be problematic for employees and employers, alike, if a policy is not properly defined.

This section of your handbook should—at the very least—address the use of social media at work. In some workplaces, social media sites are blocked. In other cases, there are no controls in place. Either way, keep in mind that employees can be using social media sites on their personal smart phones. 

You should also address the use of social media outside of work as it pertains to representing or talking about your company. For instance, clarify whether disclaimers are encouraged on social media profiles where one has identified themselves as an employee of your company. Some X (formerly Twitter) users include a statement in their profile bios to point out that their views are their own and not those of their employers.

Also consider whether employees are allowed or even encouraged to participate in online forums or discussions about the company or to respond to comments online from customers. In the hospitality industry, your loyal and devoted staff may feel compelled to respond to snarky customer reviews on sites like Facebook, Yelp, or Tripadvisor. If they’re allowed, provide clear guidelines on how employees should conduct themselves in these scenarios.

  1. Employee Recognition and Rewards

Employee recognition and reward programs can be extremely motivating and exciting to a new hire. As you introduce employees to your company for the first time, it can be extremely powerful to demonstrate that recognizing achievements isn’t only a best practice at your company. It’s a policy. Position your new hires for success from day one by giving them something to aspire to. It’s also a great way to showcase company culture throughout your company handbook.

Employee recognition programs can be as simple as an employee of the month program. Or it can be more complex, such as annual awards events or ongoing programs where employees recognize their colleagues for excellent work, embodying values, or going above and beyond their duties.

  1. Mental Health

It seems like every day new sobering statistics are being published about the impact of mental health issues in the workplace. It’s one of the leading causes of short- and long-term absences in the workplace—one that costs US employers hundreds of billions annually in lost productivity. Managing these issues proactively is essential to mitigating risk and providing a safe and healthy workplace for your team members. 

That starts with your employee handbook.

While health, safety, and accommodation policies have been the status quo for decades, progressive employers are now starting to incorporate elements of mental health into their company handbooks, as well.

This may include policies regarding substance use, suicide prevention and self care. It can also highlight any wellness programs offered by the company—from meditation rooms and counselling services to stress reduction training and employee assistance programs.

  1. Green Workplace Policy

An employee handbook is an excellent place to make an impactful statement about your company’s commitment to sustainability and green initiatives.

Company policies around green initiatives can be as simple as recycling, minimizing waste, properly disposing of items, and turning off equipment not in use. Bad environmental habits can be hard to break, so including this in the handbook will ensure that new hires comply from day one.

  1. Dealing with Allergens

Many schools have gone allergen-free and workplaces are now beginning to follow suit by banning top food culprits like peanuts and shellfish. In addition to concerns for employees with allergies, many businesses need to have policies in place for dealing with customers who have allergies. This is especially critical in the restaurant industry, where proprietors can be held legally responsible for anaphylactic reactions to food consumed in their establishments. Other hospitality businesses such as spas, hotels and event venues need to be aware of these risks as well.

A thorough policy may include the location of epipens or other life-saving medications at the workplace (if applicable). It can also detail what employees should do in the event of an emergency.

Food allergies are not the only area of concern to address here. Many individuals are also highly sensitive to fragrances. Therefore, rules around use of perfumes, colognes, and scented cosmetics should be addressed in your employee handbook. Check out the 10 best employee handbook examples for more comprehensive tips on what to include.

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