What is an employee handbook There are many attorneys with internet presences offering "free advice" on handbook drafting in layman's language (Dickson Wright).Look for simple definitions on the internet and you may be disappointed; however, Schaefer goes to some trouble to distinguish it from the much larger "manual of policies and procedures":
An employee handbook is designed to familiarize employees with basic company policies and benefits programs, and although it draws topics from the far broader policies manual, it presents them with much less detail. (43)
Also, the reader may have direct experience of signing an acknowledgement often including a statement, a disclaimer, to the effect that you agree that the handbook does not in itself constitute an employment contract (Schaefer 43) which is a key point in understanding them. Handbooks are informational, non-contractual documents that cover the employee journey from induction to discharge. Implicit in them is the legal concept of consensus in idem ("agreement in the same thing"), widely acknowledged to be an advantage of these documents (Newcomb). For the purposes of this essay we will only consider large-scale enterprises which are usually where they are used.
Handbooks can be most useful for employee induction, as a basis for resolving disputes or reducing a company's exposure to law suits arising from health and safety legislation, claims for harassment and for unfair dismissal; indeed, it could be a combination of all of these and more. Although it may be assumed that the handbook may not be well received by some employees, this misses the point in that it is a top-down, employer-created document and they must comply with its rules and spirit. In a unionized workplace, much of the content would depend of the relative bargaining strengths of the parties. Employer interests will inevitably dominate and, ironically in some respects, be separated from their employees', e.g. consider McDonalds' policies on "no solicitation, no loitering" (McDonalds 9). It may prescribe the use of safety goggles or a uniform (McDonalds 13), but also describe, say, an attitude that shop floor staff must have toward customers, as illustrated by McDonalds' concept of "customer delight" (10).
If we compare and contrast the handbooks for a commercial concern, McDonalds Australia, the University of Chicago and The State of Iowa, we can see immediately that although covering broadly similar themes, they are tailored to the organization to take account of their particular corporate culture and aims, e.g. differing health and safety requirements, differing staff profiles (diverse age group or predominantly young people), the mission of the organization, etc.. One is aimed primarily at inexperienced young adults, one at a range of staff from clerical to collegiate, degree-educated academics and one at an American state with probably the broadest and most diverse employee profile.
Handbook content is broadly similar regardless of the organization's purpose and covers matters such as absence and sick leave, benefits, dress code, health and safety, performance and appraisal,