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Employee Handbook vs. Policy and Procedure Manual: What’s the Difference?

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employee handbook vs policy and procedure manual = what's the difference by davis law group pc in chesapeake, virginia

Employee Handbook vs. Policy and Procedure Manual: What’s the Difference?

August 17, 2023 Davis Law Group

As an employer in the Commonwealth of Virginia, knowing the difference between a handbook and a policy manual and using them appropriately can create a more transparent and smoothly operating business. But it can also help avoid potential costly litigation or settlements with disgruntled employees. 

What is an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook is a document that educates employees about your company and how it operates. The handbook makes clear what you expect from employees as well as what employees can expect from you. It is generally used as an exhibit during employment disputes, so it is important to ensure that your handbook complies with all relevant statutory requirements.

An employee handbook is not a contract. Most states presume employment is at-will, meaning that an employer can let go of an employee at any time without cause and an employee can leave at any time without giving notice. It is important to draft the employee handbook so that it does not become a contract and negate the presumption of at-will employment. You could end up owing lots of money to a disgruntled former employee for wrongful termination if a court views your handbook as a contract. Inexperienced drafters may create a contract without realizing, so it may be beneficial to have an employment attorney draft or review your employee handbook.

What Should Go in an Employee Handbook?

An employee handbook generally includes information about compensation, leave policies, dress codes, standards of conduct, and workers’ rights. The goal is to give employees a high-level overview of how the company operates and how they will fit into that operation. Virginia now requires employers to include certain statements about employees’ rights in employee handbooks regarding disability and pregnancy discrimination.

How Is a Policy and Procedure Manual Different?

Written policies and procedures are generally detailed step-by-step descriptions about how to perform company processes. The handbook, alternatively, should be simple and easy to read so that employees become familiar with your company. Therefore, it’s usually best to keep more detailed and technical information in a separate manual. The policy and procedure manual should complement the employee handbook and never contradict it.

Let’s look at an example. A handbook states that employees are given up to 5 paid vacation days each year. A new employee might be excited to learn there are paid vacation days. But how will the employee get to use those days? The steps that an employee must follow to apply for the time off will be contained in a policy and procedure manual.

What if I Don’t Have an Employee Handbook or It’s Not Up to Date?

Schedule an appointment with Davis Law Group today to create or review your employee handbook. Once our experienced employment attorneys have drafted or reviewed your handbook, you will receive complimentary annual handbook reviews to ensure that it stays up to date as employment laws and your business change. Here, it’s all about peace of mind.