How To Write An Employee Handbook 

An employee handbook is like the bible of an organisation. It communicates to employees the rules, policies, values and culture of the organisation. Thus, both the employer and employee are clear on expectations. The handbook is also an excellent resource to train new employees and likewise a reference source for existing staff.

Writing an employee handbook, especially for the first time, can be taxing. The content and manner of delivery must be all-encompassing and readable. Here, we’ll walk through some tips on what it entails to write a winning employee handbook.

Get A Format For The Handbook

The best place to look for an employee handbook format is the labour organisation within your locality. They often come with rulings and guidance concerning employee handbooks. Using such a form helps you to be mindful of putting overbroad confidentiality rules in your manual. For example, most labour guidelines prohibit handbooks from restricting employees from airing their views on work conditions.

Another place to get an idea of the handbook format is to scan the work environment for everyday practices. Looking at your work environment gives you a better sense of how to go about writing people-based policies.

Additionally, you need to consider your format when writing a handbook for employees that work remotely. Remember that the peculiarities of remote working are different from a traditional office. Staff may work remotely either on a permanent or temporary basis. For example, you can provide a clause in your handbook granting remote work privileges to employees who require it for various reasons. Whatever arrangements you have, it is important to outline their responsibilities as remote staff clearly.

Create An Outline Of What Goes Into The Handbook

Here, you will list out all the topics you wish to encapsulate in the handbook. You can also use the list to create the table of contents. When crafting these topics, there are some legal mandates to consider, for instance: family and medical leave, inclusion, or disability-friendly mandates. In most cases, the failure to adhere to these mandates may amount to non-compliance with the law. Other topics to add to your handbook outline might include:

  • Your organisation’s culture, mission, vision and values.
  • Workplace policies such as safety, security, health, rights, harassment and confidentiality.
  • Code of conduct like a conflict of interest, employee relationships, discipline and dress code.
  • Employment basics: for example, equality in employment opportunities, contract types and attendance, salary and bonuses.
  • Compensation and career development
  • Benefits policies like retirement, insurances, etc.
  • Health and well-being policy (including this in your handbook provides a clear and positive statement that shows the organisation places value on its workers’ health and well-being).
  • Off-work policies like sick leave, annual leave, maternity or paternity leave, paid time off, etc.
  • Resumption hours, work hours and closing time.
  • Resignation and termination rules.

As an employer, you are left with the decision to include additional topics.

Give A Detailed Summary Of The Outlined Topics

After outlining your handbook content, you can go on to provide a summary of each point. It is your chance to state expectations and leave no room for doubt. The tone of your writing should not be commandeering. Instead, it should be politely and clearly expressed.

When writing this aspect of your employee handbook, try to provide brief details for employees to understand. Inform your staff of what is expected of them in clear terms and channels of disputing a case if needed. It’s all about maintaining a perfect balance when writing an employee handbook. On the one hand, you don’t want to overwhelm your staff with so much detail and run the risk of them not reading it. On the other hand, you don’t want to over-summarise and, therefore, lose essential information.

Get Legal And HR Involved

An employee handbook can be quickly shrouded in several legal issues with your employees. Thus, when writing one, you can’t be too careful. Once you’re done writing your employee handbook, hand it over to your legal unit for a review. The review ensures that you haven’t written yourself into a sticky situation. You don’t want your employees suing you for contractual agreements you did not intend to create.

Another vital review is the one carried out by your Human Resource team. The HR review process ensures that all information is accurate and straightforward. Also, they make sure that policies in the handbook are current with evolving regulations in your sector.

Publishing And Distribution Of The Handbook

Next, you need to decide your means of publication and distribution. Do you want an independent publisher to print hard copies, or will your organisation self-publish? The process of publishing involves editing and formatting before you can print. At this point, you can outsources the writing to copywriting services. Also, you might choose to create only soft copies of the handbook.

The means of distributing the handbook to employees should also be considered. Do you want to send it to their email inboxes, give them in a USB flash drive, or give them hard copies? You can decide to make use of one or all of these distribution channels. I’ll advise that you consider the email channel. It is easier to update employees in the event of any policy change.

Make Provisions For Organisational Alumni

Rather than referring to former employees only in the past tense, now more organisations understand the value of keeping the bond. Setting up alumni is an excellent strategy for your brand ambassadorship and networking. Other lasting benefits include having a backup in the event of knowledge deficit and mentorship for new staff. Your handbooks should make provisions to reach out to employees that left for genuine reasons and not for policy breach or poor performance. Taking a cue from Deloitte’s slogan “colleagues for life”, you can go on and make provisions for alumni in your handbook.

Leave Room For Change

Speaking of policy change, as your business grows, several changes occur. For example, your sales performance report, industry regulations, employee guidelines, etc., can change. As these changes occur, you need to adapt as they come so your employees aren’t struck with obsolete systems. Set out every six to twelve months to re-evaluate your employee handbook. Likewise, you can use this opportunity to get your employee’s feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. Since the content of the employee handbook guides how they work with your organisation.


There you have it! These tips on how to write an employee handbook will get you started on how to capture what goes into the book. Benefits, duties, rights, expectations, etc., are all communicated in detail for your employees to understand. You want them to find it readable, so remember to keep it short and straight to the point. Besides arranging for someone to help proofread, legal and HR check are also necessary. They will help you avoid costly mistakes. Even after publishing and distributing the employee handbook, periodic re-evaluation needs to be done. This is to keep up with changes in your organisation and industry.

Author: Aaron S. Swain

Photo Credits: Pixabay

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