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How do I write an employee handbook for my small business?

Updated on August 18, 2014

Do I need an employee handbook?

If you have ever worked for a large company, you know that one of the first things you are given is an employee handbook that outlines the company’s personnel policies. However, employee handbooks should not be utilized solely by middle-sized and large companies. Small business owners who employ ten or more people should also consider creating a handbook.

The litigious nature of the business world means that employers must take a proactive approach to protecting themselves and their employees. The best way to do this is with a comprehensive handbook. Although it is impossible to anticipate every potential issue, thinking about the most common issues and establishing concrete policies protects both parties from unwanted surprises and confusion. More importantly, the very act of contemplating issues and developing policies prepares employers for sticky situations that are often emotionally-charged.

Top 7 things to include in an employee handbook

What topics should be addressed in an employee handbook?

The topics which should be addressed will depend on your line of work, but there are a few topics that should be addressed in every employee manual:

Do I need to hire a lawyer to write an employee handbook?

You do not need to hire an attorney to write your handbook. The Small Business Administration has free resources on its site to assist you in writing your employee manual. In addition, most state and local business administrations also offer free resources, seminars, and/or legal clinics for small business owners to assist with compliance with state and local employment laws.

To get started you can download a free sample handbook from the Society For Human Resource Management. It is a great starting point for drafting your handbook. Of course, the sample will have to be modified to suit your organization and to ensure compliance with your state's employment laws. The National Federation of Independent Business also offers a free sample handbook.

Additional Resources

FirstStep Employment Law Advisor: To find out which federal laws apply to your business you can use the U.S. Department of Labor FirstStep Employment Law Advisor. It is a free resource which helps employers determine which major federal employment laws apply to their business or organization, what recordkeeping and reporting requirements they must comply with, and which posters they need to post.

SBA learning center: The U.S. Small Business Administration site has a 'Learning Center' which offers free online training, videos, and chat sessions for small business owners covering a wide range of topics including employee handbooks. There is also a link to find your local SBA office.


The information in this article is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, comments, answers, or other communications should be taken as legal advice. The information provided is not intended to create, and viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

© 2014 Bahin Ameri


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      This is great information for those who need guidelines for compiling the book. I remember getting those when I was a first hire. Very important for the company and staff.