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The Value of a Well-Written Employee Handbook

May 15, 2020 • Cheryl Hoover

The Value of a Well-Written Employee Handbook

A well-written employee handbook can serve as a “best practices” guide for employers by communicating key standards and expectations for employees and explaining personnel policies and practices so they can be applied consistently and fairly.

Benefits

Besides communicating valuable information to employees, a well-written employee handbook is a human resource asset. The HR department can use the handbook to provide guidance and consistency in the day-to-day operations of the district when working with district leaders, principals, supervisors, and employees.  

A handbook also may provide legal protection in the event of disputes, complaints, or grievances by providing summaries of key employment policies and practices. Overall, the handbook should balance educating employees with meeting legal requirements related to employment (e.g., providing required notices). The handbook also serves as a tool for setting employee performance expectations and can be used as a reference for performance evaluations or disciplinary actions.

Content

The handbook should serve as a quick reference to policies, practices, and expectations and inform and educate employees. Including information about the district is helpful, as well as information about employment; nondiscrimination; compensation and benefits; leave and absence benefits; expectations of employee conduct; relationships and communication with students, parents, and colleagues; complaints and grievances; termination of employment; student issues; and general procedures.

Copies of complete policies or official notices districts and colleges are required to distribute to employees include the following:

  • Grievance procedures
  • Discrimination, harassment, and retaliation
  • Harassment of students
  • Alcohol- and drug-abuse prevention
  • Family and medical leave rights

Avoid making the handbook a “how to” manual by adding every minor procedure your district uses. Operational procedures can be developed at the department and campus level to meet this need.

Updating and distribution

Employee handbooks should be updated annually and reviewed by legal counsel prior to distribution. Pay careful attention to changes in employment laws and policies, particularly after a legislative session.

Providing beginning of the year employee handbook information sessions, through face-to-face presentations or remote methods, can be a proactive way to communicate expectations, standards, new policies, reminders, and the overall contents of the handbook to employees.

Employee handbooks can be made available to employees online, but you may need to provide hardcopy to employees who do have not access to a computer or printer. It is important to include a way for employees to acknowledge receipt of the handbook as well as agree to read and abide by the standards, policies, and procedures in the handbook. For most employees, an electronic signature can be used to accomplish this task.

TASB 2020 Model Employee Handbook is available

Maintaining your employee handbook is much like getting your annual physical checkup—a necessary preventive practice that keeps you healthy and on track. The TASB 2020 Model Employee Handbook and the Community College model, updated with the most recent “best practices” guidance and legal requirements, are now available in the myTASB HR Services resources and can be used by members to create a custom, localized employee handbook.


Cheryl Hoover is an HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Cheryl an email at cheryl hoover@tasb.org.


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Tagged: DOL, "Employee handbook", "Employment law", HR