How to Create an Employee Handbook, On Any Budget

As a small business owner with a growing staff, you may be wondering: Should I be putting together an employee handbook that outlines all of the basic policies of employment for my company?

For the most comprehensive and individualized answer to this question, you’ll want to consult a lawyer who specializes in employment matters. Employee handbooks can have many legal consequences, and there are plenty of legal rules surrounding what you can and cannot include in them. Remember also that you can be bound to whatever policies you put into your handbook, so it should never be taken lightly. Also, it’s a document that your employees will look to for information regarding the fundamentals of their jobs, so as a good manager you’ll want to respect their needs.

Once you’ve determined that a handbook makes sense for your business, there are multiple options for writing it. Here are three ways to approach the creation of your employee handbook, based on your time and budget allotments.

Low Time/Cost

If time is of the essence and budget is also tight, it’s still possible to put together an effective employee handbook. Resources like this SBA guide can give you an outline and suggestions for what to include. Be sure that you cover the most important topics, like anti-discrimination laws and workplace safety policies, and that your language is clear and understandable.

In general, if you’re handling the writing of the handbook yourself, it’s a good rule of thumb to stick to standard language that is formal and professional. This isn’t always the time to put in your unique flair. You can find examples of standard handbook language on websites like this one, and there are also online tools available for the creation and publication of the handbook. And if you want to see examples of how some large companies are handling their handbooks, click here.

Mid Cost

If hiring a full-service attorney to write your handbook is outside your budget, but you would like some help reviewing your drafts and making suggestions for edits and changes, there are services available to fit your needs. Companies like UpCounsel, which connects users with short-term legal help via a matching service, lets you find qualified and experienced lawyers who are available for short-term projects on a specific budget. Having an expert look over everything before you finalize it can be one of the best safeguards to ensure that your handbook follows all legal policies and keeps both your business and your employees as safe and informed as possible.

Highest Cost

Hiring a lawyer to create your handbook, soup to nuts, can be a smart use of your money if you plan to grow rapidly. An attorney’s job is to manage risk, so she will know potential pitfalls that employers fall into with handbooks, and she’ll steer you away from them. Particularly if your business involves manual labor or any roles in which employees are at risk of injury and/or turnover quickly, having an iron-clad handbook can be an invaluable resource if your policies are questioned.

There are many worst-case scenarios for business owners when it comes to employment law, and investing in a comprehensive handbook can do a lot to minimize the chances that you wind up in court over a matter that could have been cleared up in a good employee handbook. No matter your budget, make sure to set aside time and budget to give the creation of your handbook the care and respect it deserves.