An employee handbook, also called staff handbook or employee manual, is a tool of formal and indirect communication between a company and its employees. It’s pretty much a company Bible. The handbook lists out its expectations from its workforce and what the staff can expect from the management. Typically, an employee receives the handbook on the first day of job.

Companies entertain employee manuals as the book ensures the organization and its employees are on the same page. However, the handbook is no work contract, or an employee isn’t guaranteed the job if he/she strictly adheres to the rules. An organization can still suspend or dismiss employees at its discretion.

The handbook must be written in clear and simple language and remain business-specific. There are specific policies to be included in the manual by law. Therefore, employee handbooks are usually written by law professionals, as they are familiar with local, state and federal laws. Any changes in government rules or company policies will reflect in the handbook and the same notified to employees.


Almost every company has employee handbooks and the content across different manuals may vary in nature and order, as per company requisites and state laws. If a company has branches in different cities and states, its employee manuals will differ across branches. 

  • Introduction: A welcome statement along with an account of the company’s past, success factors, business objectives and mission statement.
  • Orientation: This entails fresh hires providing duly filled income tax forms, identity proofs, medical test report, etc. to the human resource manager.
  • Compensation and benefits: Details pertaining to salary and increments, taxes, employer benefit programs, pay schedules, overtime pay, performance review guidelines, bonuses and breaks, retirement plans, health insurance and wellness programs.
  • Working options and timings: Company policies pertaining to working schedules and hours, punctuality and absence reporting, attendance, leave policies, telecommuting options and flexible schedules.
  • Work discipline and safety: This includes information and company policies on workplace sexual harassment, alcohol or drug use on company premises, use of company equipment (telephone, email, Internet, etc.), dress code, dispute resolution policies, adherence to general safety rules, workplace smoking restrictions, locking not-in-use computers or file cabinets, etc.
  • Acknowledgement page: Employees must sign this page, indicating they’re aware and abide by the handbook. The acknowledgement page is detachable and is returned to the employer.  

Criticism and Best Practices

Most employees believe employee handbooks primarily focus on negativity, or things employees mustn’t do. According to experts, an effective manual must lay emphasis on keeping employees happy and informed. The shall not sentences must be avoided as much as possible.