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Why You Need an Employee Handbook Instead of a Template

UPDATED 04/12/2023

One of the most important elements in any business is the employee handbook. Many practice owners and employers do not realize how important it really is — until they need it.

It showcases the rules and regulations, workplace policies, federal and state labor laws, and unique policies that practices have, and illustrates a plethora of important guidelines such as disability/religious accommodations, anti-discrimination/harassment policies, and protected sick leave policies in various states. Let’s take a closer look at what an employee template is and the importance of an employee handbook.

What is an Employee Handbook Template?

An employee handbook template is an often free template that practice owners can use to create a generic employee handbook. The handbook template provides the basic information and policies that practices need to have in place. However, using a template is not necessarily as effective as creating an employee handbook for a few reasons. First, employee handbook templates are general, so they do not take into consideration state-specific policies and/or requirements. 

Second, a template doesn’t allow you to show unique practice rules that may apply to your specific type of practice. 

Finally, if your employee handbook is not kept up–to-date, it may not even be compliant with current guidelines. This applies to both employee handbook templates, as well as employee handbooks.

The Importance of an Employee Handbook

Whether you call it a company manual, a staff manual, or a company field guide, an employee handbook is the go-to Bible of your company. The handbook is the first thing new employees receive on their first day of work, and gives them all the information they need to excel at their job. Handbooks increase a new employee's ability to do their job from the start, and make them more equipped to know everything about the practice and its regulations. 

Why You Need an Employee Handbook Instead of a TemplateAn employee handbook can help prevent employees from filing lawsuits because your employee handbook safeguards you. An employee handbook clearly states the policies you and your practice must follow, and can prevent unfair treatment of individuals. It also allows all employees to be on the same page and have a clear understanding of what is and what isn’t acceptable at your practice.

This can safeguard your practice against litigation. It also ensures all policies are consistently followed by all team members and generally helps keep everyone on the same page in regards to work policies and procedures.

What Content Is in an Employee Handbook?

For obvious reasons, each dental, optometrist, or medical employee handbook differs. Yet, certain elements found in most employee handbooks are universal components. These include:

• The company's mission statement, values, and company culture

• Company policies on non-discrimination (i.e. EEO policy)

• Sick leave and vacation/PTO policies, if applicable

• Obligations and rights in reference to employment, as well as legal and Human Resources rights and obligations

• What to expect from the employer and employee relationships, as well as what the employee can expect from the company

• A breakdown of the different employment classifications

• Company policies regarding employee conduct and performance expectations

Why exactly are these needed? We sum it up with three words — to demonstrate compliance. An employee handbook outlines specific procedures and allows your practice to reference that material. It is there so employees can always review what the rules are, and if there is a conflict, you can find the relevant policy easily.

For example, one employee has an issue with another over harassment claims. Your employee handbook should always have a section that addresses these types of issues so that if there is an issue, the protocol is clearly stated.  Everyone knows what will happen, and there are no "Well, how was I to know?" comments.

As mentioned, keep in mind your employee handbook protects you. Let's say an employee wants to file a lawsuit. Most lawyers want to know about an employee handbook. Practices that do not have one are more susceptible to financial loss from litigation. Why? Because the absence of a handbook can potentially be indicative of noncompliance with policies and procedures. 

For example, some policies can act as supporting documentation for a termination. Examples of such policies include your attendance policy and standards of conduct.


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Termination Mistakes Checklist & Template


When Should You Create One?

There are no specific rules on when you must create an employee handbook. Yet, if your business has more than a few employees, it becomes something your company needs. There are no laws stating you must have one, but take a look at the many reasons they are imperative:

• Useful in mitigating conflict among employees and defining prohibited conduct

• Handbooks help new hires understand what your expectations are of them and what they can expect from your practice

• Informs new hires about all company policies on things important to them, such as vacation time, holidays, and pay schedules

• It states your company mission statement and gives background on the practice

• It showcases attendance policies, and dress code, and depending on individual practice needs, even parking recommendations may be provided

The point is that the employee handbook is comprehensive information that a new hire receives during onboarding, and it lets them learn all the things they would normally have to ask about. There is less chance for conflicts where an employee says they weren't told something or that they didn't know. 

This not only helps your practice fight potential lawsuits but there is often information an employee is afraid to ask or may not realize is a rule. Instead of not knowing, it's right there for them to see, and the handbook even answers questions they may not have thought of but need the answer to in the future.


Recommended Reading 📘

Why Your Employee Handbook is Your First Line of Defense


Why You Need an Employee Handbook Instead of a Template

While it might save time to have an employee handbook template, there are many reasons why this is not the answer to your needs. The first reason is that a custom handbook will be crafted to meet not only federal policies but also your specific state and even city laws, thus protecting your practice from unknown risks. 

Each practice is unique. Your business has one individual way of doing things that may not be like the rest and your employee handbook needs to reflect that.

For example, your mission statement or dress code will be different from another practice unrelated to your industry. Yet, a customized employee handbook allows you to showcase distinct changes that are important to your business. A good example of a customized new hire orientation for employees is our HR for Health software system.

Here is some more detailed information on our software system:

• It is customized to each state and state-specific requirements and policies

• Onboarding is completed electronically

• New employees are guided through the onboarding process

• Allows employees to function independently

The point is, a customized employee handbook has all the elements to showcase your practice in a way that leaves no question unanswered. It allows you to create it in a warm and inviting way — a way that makes the new employee want to read it instead of tossing it aside like happens so often.

Why You Need an Employee Handbook Instead of a TemplateThink of your handbook as the Holy Grail of your business, and remember, there is never a one-size-fits-all method. What we do at HR for Health is take your ideas and needs and create a customized employee handbook done by HR professionals. We create an employee handbook customized to your specialty - whether that be dental, optometry, or other medical field, state regulations, and individual practice culture. We set standards for performance and protect against human resources-related legal claims.

Your customized employee handbook includes:

Policies that are attorney-approved

Policies and HR best practices tailored to your practice's goals and culture

Federal AND state-compliant policies tailored to the employee count and specific location of your practice

No cap to the number of revisions you make no extra charge to make the revisions.

Remember that you will want to make your handbook easy to read and understand. New hires are more likely to retain that information if it is presented in a straightforward manner. You now have an employee that not only knows more about the company and their job, but they also know your expectations of them and how they are to perform their job duties.