When a new employee begins the first day on the job at your organization, certain expectations are immediately set. While the culture of your organization comes to fruition as this new employee settles into his or her new role, general guidelines should be highlighted in one guide: The employee handbook.

Although there are no federal or state laws that specifically require a company to distribute a handbook, it is one of the most crucial internal pieces of communication provided to employees. The handbook outlines expectations, policies, benefits, and legal regulations that can save your organization from questions and challenges later down the road.

Keep in mind that it’s not an instructional document, but more of a framework for your company to follow. This framework, molded into an employee handbook, doesn’t have to be printed out; you can easily keep your handbook online. This is a great option if a tight budget is a top concern.

The following list of items make up the key components of a compliant employee handbook:

(If you already have a handbook put together for your new employees, it’s a good idea to review it periodically to ensure all of your latest policies are the most up-to-date.)

Items to Include:

Welcome and Introduction to Your Company

This section is the best place to set the tone that depicts your company’s work environment. First impressions stick like glue, and your employee handbook can help ensure your mission statement and culture sticks here, too.

General Employment Information

Falling under this category would be an overview of business and employment policies such as job classifications, employee records, and termination and resignation procedures.

Anti-Discrimination Policies

Your employee handbook should include a statement that explains how you comply with equal employment opportunity laws and related legal requirements. This is also a great place to include your sexual harassment and affirmative action policies.


In this part of the handbook, you should outline your company’s policies when it comes to overtime pay, payroll periods, performance reviews, break times, and bonuses. Also included here should be an explanation of how your company will make the necessary state and federal tax deductions.

Work Schedules

Attendance guidelines, absence reporting, flexible schedule policies, and work hours should all be outlined in this area of the employee handbook.

Standards of Conduct

From dress codes to ethics to disciplinary procedures, your standards should clearly be documented in this section of the handbook. You can also remind employees of any legal obligations they may need to comply with (such as handling clients’ confidential data).

Safety and Security

Safety and security are of utmost importance for your employees. In order to solidify this as a priority, your policies, including compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) laws, should be spelled out in this section. This is also a good place to include your company’s bad weather standards and tips for creating a more secure work environment.

Computers and Technology

Without setting certain parameters, internet usage can potentially spiral out of control. Your employee handbook should describe the policies for appropriate computer and software use, including your security standards.

Employee Benefits

While this topic should be thoroughly discussed during the onboarding of your new employee, this is a great spot to clearly document the details of your benefit offerings. This could include everything from workers’ compensation, COBRA, retirement assistance, tuition reimbursement, business travel, etc.

Leave Policies

Leave policies that are required by law (such as family medical leave, jury duty, military leave) as well as vacation, holiday, bereavement, and sick leave should be documented in this section.

Essential Provisions

A miscellaneous section should include a disclaimer that states that the handbook should not be interpreted as an employment contract and explain if your employees are to be employed at-will. Finally, you will need written acknowledgment by your employees that they have reviewed the handbook.

Always make sure to have a legal consultant look over your handbook before it’s published.

Want to hear more about the employee handbook topic? Register for our upcoming webinar titled, “PrimePay & ThinkHR: Four Critical Handbook Policies For Today’s Workplace.”

How PrimePay Can Help

Spend less time worrying about things like benefits or leaves of absence, and more time on efficiency. These features come with HR Advisory and will help to keep you compliant:

  • Federal handbook builder.
  • Five courses to help implement employee training.
  • HR Web: An online human resource library filled with step-by-step guides.

Learn more about HR Advisory by filling out the form below: 

Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding specific application of the information to your own plan.  

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.