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Kaia Pankhurst

The Barebones Employee Handbook and Why You Need One

When done right, it can be the cornerstone of a workplace that runs high on integrity and low on excuses.




The Barebones Employee Handbook and Why You Need One

THE EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK might seem like an outdated concept, but documenting policies is more important now than ever before. Not only is the handbook a great orientation tool for new employees, it also works as a guidebook for all employees.

Building an employee handbook can feel like a daunting task, but it’s time well-spent and a crucial part of your staff management toolbox. There are lots of templates online to help you build your initial content, but there are a few items you should include in the first draft:

Business Hours

It seems obvious, but an employee handbook is actually an excellent place to list the obvious operating hours details so no one can claim ignorance on the basics. This is also an excellent time to cover timing expectations for employees. For example, are they expected to be on-site and ready for work 10 minutes before their shift starts? If they are closing, how late after close are they expected to stay and tidy up?

Dress Code

Dress codes often leave a lot up for interpretation, which can be a point of contention. You can eliminate some ambiguity by listing what is and is not acceptable work attire.


Employee Expectations

This is a broad topic, but absolutely crucial. The employee expectations section is where you outline what sort of behavior you require from your team. It can be as general or granular as you’d like.

You may wish to outline specifics like how your employees answer the phone. On the other hand, you might find it sufficient to say that employees should be friendly, diligent, positive, and proactive.

Either way, this section of your handbook should outline what happens if an employee does not meet expectations.

Harassment and Bullying

No one plans on needing these sort of policies, but they should be formalized and easy to find. If someone on your team does feel harassed or bullied, they must feel safe enough to address the issue.


Including harassment and bullying policies in your employee handbook isn’t just about discouraging people from treating their co-workers poorly, it’s about reassuring your team that you will not allow them to be treated poorly.

Insurance Coverage

Some insurance providers will give you and your employees a booklet detailing exactly what your insurance plan covers. Keep one of these booklets somewhere specific in your office, and describe the location in your employee handbook. You could also tell employees how to access their benefits information, or simply include their benefits directly in the handbook.

Making the details of your insurance plan easily accessible to your team ensures you don’t have to answer the same questions about filing a claim over and over again.

Holiday and Sick Time

Every workplace is different in terms of vacation day accrual, access to sick days, how time off is approved, and other crucial details. Your employee handbook is the perfect place to list them. Don’t forget to include instructions on how to apply for vacation days, and the appropriate procedure for taking a sick day.


In order to work as a cohesive team, you and your employees all need to be on the same page regarding your expectations of them, their expectations of you, and what constitutes a successful workday. An employee handbook, when done right, can be the cornerstone of a workplace that runs high on integrity and low on excuses.

Kaia Pankhurst is a Senior Content Strategist at Marketing4ECPs ( where she creates and implements content strategies for eyecare practices all over North America. Outside of the office, Kaia is a musician, activist, and professional wrestler. Email her at


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