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5 must-have HR policies for every employee handbook

Some of these are no-brainers. Others, not so obvious. But they’re all too often overlooked.

5 must-have HR policies for every employee handbook
[Photo: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels]

Most businesses operate within the framework of myriad HR policies—many designed to comply with local, state, and federal regulations; others based on employment best practices, and the balance developed for specific organizational needs that help companies operate efficiently and provide structure and consistency for workforce-related matters.  

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HR policies should be compiled in employee handbooks offered online, with an option for printed versions, to inform new employees and serve as a resource and guide for daily operations. But with rapid changes in the business landscape, current events, new employment issues and concerns, and additional regulations, it can be difficult to keep employee handbooks current for employers and employees alike. In addition, some HR policies that are second nature to more tenured employees, and still apply, may not be on the radar for newer employees.

Here are five HR policies for business leaders to consider adding to employee handbooks or reemphasizing with staff members.    

Social Media Policies

The use of social media is instinctive and time-consuming for many individuals who post everything about their day. Since the platforms have a casual format and encourage self-expression, employees may not see any issues with, or consider the potential ramifications of, posting about employers, supervisors, company information, and competitors. Companies should develop and enforce social media policies that protect the reputation of the company and establish standards for employees. For example, setting guidelines for using company descriptions, boilerplates, and logos, and establishing approved subject matter, such as areas of expertise, linking to the company blog, etc. 

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Third-Party Harassment

While most employers and employees are familiar with anti-harassment laws in the workplace, some may not make the connection that it also applies to third parties, such as clients and vendors. Employees might follow the “customer is always right” mantra and ignore verbal abuse. Employees who work with vendors who might make inappropriate comments or advances might not be prompted to report it due to unawareness of the law, or fear of repercussions. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer may also be responsible for the acts of nonemployees, with respect to employees in the workplace, where the employer (or its agents or supervisory employees) knows, or should have known, of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. Companies should review their HR policies to be sure information related to third-party harassment is understandable.

Media Relations Policies

Many companies have policies that designate authorized representatives who can speak on behalf of the company with members of the media. They also establish rules and guidelines for fielding and responding to media inquiries, issuing press releases, approved subject matter, and quiet periods. For publicly traded companies, enforcing this policy is critical because of SEC rules that must be followed. It is also important to help ensure that accurate and appropriate information is shared with the media. Companies with employees/sales teams who attend social functions that include the media should emphasize this policy because nothing is “off the record,” and unauthorized spokespersons might have their guard down and share the wrong information.  

At-Will Employment

Employees might not be aware of at-will employment, which is legal in most states with some exceptions. At-will employment means that the employment relationship is for an indefinite period and may be terminated either by employer or employee for any reason, as long as it’s legal. If applicable, companies should be sure to include the at-will employment policy on the first page of employee handbooks.  The rules may be different for contract employees and those covered by collective bargaining,

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Employee Attendance Policies

While it may be a given that employees should understand the procedures surrounding work hours, unexpected absences, scheduled breaks, and late arrivals, that is not always the case. Sometimes employees become lax or form bad habits by arriving late or not calling in when planning to be absent while managers may fail to enforce the rules, leading to poor team morale and reduced performance. In addition, remote work situations might necessitate parameters around working hours. Companies should have a clear and consistent attendance policy that is tracked and enforced to help maintain team performance.

As companies review and/or update their HR policies, it behooves leaders to consider including policies that may not be top of mind, but are equally important to business operations. It is always better to be safe than sorry with a comprehensive employee handbook that can be referenced when HR issues arise. 


Kelly Yeates is vice president of service operations with Insperity, a provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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