What Is an Employee Handbook?

A spiral-bound employee handbook

After crafting the perfect resume, sending out applications and nailing the job interview, you've finally landed the perfect job. Well done! Chances are you did your research on the organization already. However, there's still a lot left to learn.

One of the first things you should do as a new employee is read through your company's employee handbook. Although it may not even be a "book" these days – many businesses include their employee handbook on the company intranet – understanding this document's purpose will help you better absorb the firm's policies and practices.

Read on to learn what an employee handbook typically contains.

Purpose and distribution
The employee handbook's purpose is to document an organization's policies and procedures, such as hours, payroll schedule and vacation time. Because this is a legal document, you may be asked to sign a receipt acknowledging you have not only received the handbook, but that you also have read and understood the content.

While the handbook in no way acts as a contract, it can be used by both employees and employers in the event of a lawsuit. So it's important you thoroughly understand the contents of your employee handbook.

History and mission statement
Most employee handbooks begin with a welcome statement from the president or CEO, sometimes followed by the company's mission statement and a list of core values. You may also find an overview of the organization's history.

Give this section a careful read. Knowing more about the foundation on which the company was built can help you better understand the rules and policies in place.

Policies and procedures
You'll likely find the most basic company rules near the front of your employee handbook, such as hours of operation, procedures for timekeeping and payroll, code of ethics, and dress policies. There will be information on health and safety procedures and rules on both personal and company security. You'll also find details about the organization's performance appraisal and disciplinary procedures. Employers are typically required by law to include information on equal employment and non-discrimination policies, as well as worker's compensation policies.

Be sure to consult the employee handbook about using Internet access and company email for personal tasks. Because social media usage continues to increase, many organizations now have policies that limit or altogether eliminate social media interaction during business hours. Others see advantages in allowing access. The handbook may even have code of conduct policies governing specific channels, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Benefits and state-specific information
Your employee handbook should thoroughly discuss all of the benefits you can expect to receive. These benefits may include health and dental insurance, a pension plan or other retirement plans such as a 401(k). You'll also find details about company and floating holidays, vacation time, sick days, and leaves of absence.

Job-specific procedures
While the employee handbook primarily covers general company policies, your employer may also provide you with a separate document detailing the procedures directly related to your specific position. This file, if given, is also an important read.

Even if your company has only a handful of workers, chances are its basic policies and procedures are well-documented in an employee handbook. As an employee, whatever effort may be required to review and learn basic company information can save you and your company time and headaches down the road.