The Important Policies Your Employee Handbook Might Be Missing

Do you have an updated employee handbook for staff members?

Even more than a contract, a comprehensive employee handbook increases transparency and empowers your employees to succeed at work. It’s the best way to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

A lot of business owners create this kind of handbook, but they forget to include a few key details. In this article, I highlight four must-have policies to add to your document. By rounding out your handbook with important details, you ensure continuity and clarity on the values that drive your business.

1. Digital Distractions at Work

In the 21st century workplace, workers have to deal with additional digital distractions. Their smartphones buzz in their pocket. They pull up Facebook on a work computer out of habit. They will also complain about work on Twitter.

Employers and managers need to adjust to this reality by creating a clear policy on digital engagement during work. For example, if you don’t want employees having their smartphones on them at check-out, you need to spell that out explicitly.

Create a space in the back of the storefront or restaurant for people to deposit their purses, backpacks, and digital devices. Communicate that employees can use their breaks to check their phones and social media accounts.

On the other hand, if you’re okay with your employees browsing the web on a slow day, set clear guidelines around what works for the team. Unfortunately, the age-old recommendation “Use your best judgment” doesn’t create clear enough boundaries with the increasing pressure of a 24/7 digital culture.

2. Shift Schedules and Time Off Requests

A lot of employees can become frustrated when they don’t understand the proper protocol for managing their availability and time-off requests. If workers don’t know the policies, they’re likely to lose out on a certain amount of job flexibility and even that much-needed vacation they already planned with their friends.

Create a chapter in your employee handbook to review the following details:

A Change in Availability

When employees have a change in their availability, they need to give the scheduling manager a lot notice. For example, as soon as student workers have their new term schedule, they should share those details with the manager. Two weeks is ideal.

Requesting Time Off

Include a holiday request form in the employee handbook, which should outline the steps workers need to take to apply for time off. Should workers submit the form via email or in person? Share those details too.

According to UK law, employees need to give twice as much notice as the time they would like to take off. As a courtesy, you can ask that employees give you more than enough notice to cover any employee absences.

Procedures for Sick Leave

Everyone gets sick. Whether they need a couple days off because they came down with the flu, or an extended period to recover from illness or surgery, you are required to give workers sick leave.

In the handbook, outline the best way to communicate last-minute sick requests, whether it’s with a phone call, text message, or email. Also remind workers that to take more than seven days off, a team member needs a doctor’s note.

3. The Path to a Promotion

The most diligent, responsible, and achieving workers care about growing their career. Rather than leave them in the dark about how to succeed at work, outline clear steps than an employee needs to take to receive a promotion.

A lot of companies require a period of time, such as a year, working at a business before they will offer a promotion. The idea behind this approach is that only seasoned employees, who exhibit commitment and know the ins-and-outs of the business, receive the opportunity to climb the ladder.

Beyond a time frame, describe characteristics that a soon-to-be-promoted employee exhibit.

  • Consistently excellent customer service skills
  • The willingness to step outside of your comfort zone
  • An appreciation of feedback and ability to integrate advice into your workflow
  • Going above-and-beyond every day
  • Leading and implementing problem-solving efforts
  • Cooperation and enjoyment of coworkers and managers
  • Shows initiative in professional development

This short list gives employees a sense of what you’re looking for in a leader, creating a goal for workers who want to grow on the job. It also clarifies your values as a business owner; to successfully lead your business, you should embody these traits too

4. An Acknowledgment Page

The most important part of an employee handbook is the one most businesses forget about: an acknowledgment page. Instead of betting on the fact that your employees read and reviewed the handbook, ask them to sign a document. Here’s some language you can use for an easy acknowledgment page:

“By signing below, I acknowledge that I read and understood the policies outlined in the employee handbook for _________. These policies and practices are at the center of this business — ________ follows them to ensure a thriving company and to maintain a healthy, happy work environment. If any changes or amendments to this handbook take place, they will be communicated both in person and in document form. “


Detach this acknowledgment page and keep it in an employee’s file. By taking this extra step, you create a sense of shared accountability on the team. As annual updates take place, you can ask employees to resign the document.

These four policies — on digital distractions, shift scheduling, promotion opportunities, and a signed acknowledgment — bring extra depth to any employee handbook. By investing in this document, you not only strengthen your relationship with employees, you also create a clear textbook for onboarding and ensure continuity among managers.

The Important Policies Your Employee Handbook Might Be Missing