Peak Performance: Tips You Can Use
Volume 7,  Issue 9
September 2015
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The Employee Handbook: An Important Business Resource
The thought of creating or updating an employee handbook is a task that few look forward to doing. Actually, it is a task that frequently gets moved around on the list of things to do. We tell ourselves that we will write the new handbook tomorrow. Then when tomorrow comes, the handbook project gets bumped to the next week or even the next month. To many, the employee handbook is a time consuming, resource hijacking project that we wish would just go away.
While it may be easy to focus on the negative aspects of creating or updating this business resource, it is important to remind ourselves of the good that comes from this document when it is written well. While it can indeed be a time consuming endeavor, the employee handbook is a valuable tool for the practice. It is a tool that is referred to frequently and that provides consistency and direction when managing the team. The employee handbook is truly worth the effort that it requires.    

The burning questions: Why does my hospital need an employee handbook? What information needs to be included in the handbook? How often should the handbook be updated? Isn't my hospital too small for an employee handbook?
No matter what the size of the business, there are three main things that an employee handbook provides to both the employer and the employee. 
  1. The handbook is a valuable communication tool.
  2.  A well-written employee handbook outlines expectations.
  3.  And finally, a handbook describes the employer's obligations to their employees while also outlining the employee's rights. 

How is an employee handbook valuable for communication? To start, your handbook should provide a history of the organization and a welcome letter from the practice owner(s). This opens the door for positive interaction with the new team member and allows for a better understanding of the hospital's history. The welcome letter helps the new employee to feel just that, welcomed and acknowledged. Reading the employee manual provides a new team member with a clear picture of the history, policies and procedures of the practice. This document will be one of the first interactions the new employee has with the practice.

A handbook is a tool that provides consistency in outlining the policies and procedures that everyone from doctors to management to support staff is meant to follow. The employee handbook is about defining expectations and responsibilities of both the hospital and the employee. For instance, a properly written handbook describes the hospital's core values, mission statement, organizational structure, standards of behavior and conduct, dress code, grievance procedures and progressive discipline practices. In addition, the handbook is the reliable and consistent source used by the hospital's human resource manager to ensure that all employees are treated equally and impartially. Key items the employee handbook should communicate are: employment benefits, benefit eligibility, schedule procedures, compensation strategies, time off requests, performance appraisal systems, pay periods and pay days, bad weather procedures, computer/technology/cell phone use and what to do in the event of an emergency. As you can see, a well-written employee handbook helps to lay a foundation for effective communication, direction, consistency and accountability among the entire healthcare team.

In addition to the policies listed above, the employee handbook should provide detailed information to employee's regarding employment taxes and other deductions from gross pay, hospital anti-harassment policies, drug-free workplace standards, jury duty procedures, safety and security practices and the performance of background checks as part of the pre-employment screening process. Providing complete information and closely following the materials outlined in the handbook can lead to better work relationships and decrease the number of misunderstandings in the workplace.

In regard to the employer's obligations and an employee's rights, the employee handbook is the resource that provides detailed information about all applicable employment and labor laws that affect the employer/employee relationship. As a matter of fact, one of the first steps in creating or updating an employee handbook is to become familiar with the federal, state and local employment laws that the business must abide by. Keep in mind, many of these laws are required to be posted in the handbook. It is vital to know whether or not your handbook is required to include information regarding: Family Medical Leave Act, equal employment opportunities, anti-discrimination policies, military leave policies, worker's compensation policies, accommodation of disabilities, employment eligibility requirements, wage/hour regulations and breastfeeding accommodations. This list is not all-inclusive. The U.S. Department of labor details information for employers about federal laws that affect the workplace on its website: .

Much of the information contained in an employee handbook is designed to protect the employer and provide knowledge and direction to employees. A key requirement for this protection to be effective is to customize the handbook for your state and to have the document reviewed by an attorney.

When creating or updating the employee handbook it is crucial to specify that the information contained does not imply any type of employment contract. In addition, it is essential to state that the material contained in the handbook supersedes any previous policy documents, that policies are subject to change with or without notice and that you receive signed acknowledgment from all team members that they received the handbook, read it and understand its content. Keep a signed copy of this acknowledgement in each employee or contract laborers' file.

The employee handbook is a living document. At least once per year, the employee handbook should be updated. It is imperative for the human resource manager to remain up-to-date with changes regarding federal, state and local laws. In the event that there is a modification, the handbook may need to be updated more frequently.

Creating or even updating an employee handbook may seem like a daunting task. The employee handbook is an undertaking where the rewards of having a well-written, thorough and highly utilized resource will truly be a benefit to the hospital. The handbook should be written in a clear, understandable manner that reflects the culture of the hospital.

The best advice for taking on this project is to break it down. Set a completion date then break down the steps of the project into smaller, achievable pieces and work on it over the specified period of time. The task will seem much less daunting if it is broken down into smaller goals

Best of luck! We know you can do it!