Pros and Cons of an Employee Handbook

One way to provide employees with a clear understanding of what is expected of them is through the creation of written policies and procedures contained in an employment handbook. An employment handbook provides employers with a mechanism for communicating their expectations, and for setting codes of conduct in the workplace. This is important in small, medium and large workplaces as it provides employers with a means of communicating their expectations to employees directly and clearly, and provides employees with clear expectations of what to expect from the employer in the Workplace.

An employee handbook gives employers an efficient and effective means of communicating with employee's about the nature of their expectations and, if used properly, is a means of receiving employees input and feedback on the creation and implementing of policies and procedure in the workplace. Obviously, in some workplaces, an employee handbook may be unnecessary.

When there are a small number of employees and the employer/owner is present in the workplace and able to convey information to the employees in a simple and direct manner, there may be no need for an employee handbook. However, even in small workplaces where communication is not a problem, it may be useful to have written policies for employees to ensure that they are given information on how the workplace functions and their roles in ensuring that it continues to do so in an appropriate manner.

INTRODUCTION A main upside of issuing an employee handbook is establishing uniform, well defined employment policies. Even an apprentice HR professional recognizes that the major trait of good employee relations is standardized and consistently applied personnel policies. In a nutshell an employee handbook defines and codifies the employer’s standards. These defined and communicated standards allow employers of large and small organizations to treat its employees consistently.

WHY A COMPANY SHOULD HAVE AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

There are several reasons why a company should have an employee handbook. To enumerate a few, it places employees on direct notice of what is required of them and summarizes the employer’s personnel policies. A meticulously drafted employee handbook can be a motivational tool – it can provide the employee with company history & set forth the company’s objectives and core values in addition to explaining the role an individual employee plays in achieving them.

It is not unusual for many employers to assume that employees know and understand what is expected of them, even when these expectations are not communicated to them in any direct manner. One way to provide employees with a clear understanding of what is expected of them is through the creation of written policies. These written policies serve as a clear roadmap for the employee in understanding standard level of organizational behaviors which is required, and has to be abided by in an organization.

MERITS OF HAVING AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK Expectations 1. They provide an opportunity for employers to identify and specify their expectations of employees and create a mechanism for clearly communicating those expectations to the employees. 2. They create an opportunity for employees to examine the nature of the employment relationship and to ensure that they are complying with their legal obligations 3. They create opportunities to examine conduct in the workplace and to create policies that lead to a healthy, more productive work environment 4. They ensure that all employees are held to the same standards. Communication

5. They provide the means of communicating with employees and receiving feedback on employees' satisfaction on the existing environment. e.g.: Personnel policies can clearly and concisely articulate the employer’s practices and procedures and set the tone for the workplace. 6. Employee handbooks can provide all employees with an accurate reflection of the employer’s philosophy and assist employees in perceiving that their employer’s policies are fair, rational and consistently administered.

7. Clearly communicated policies let employees know the internal means available to address their problems, they provide clarity and fair and transparent means of dealing with disputes 8. Policies can provide an internal mechanism for employees to voice their concerns and complaints. 9. Written policies and provisions can be used to keep at bay accusations by an employee that he or she was promised, orally or by implication, certain benefits/promises that the employer never intended to offer. Reducing the risk of employee lawsuits

1. Courts and administrative agencies will look to an employer’s personnel policies to determine the employer’s practices and as evidence of the nature of the relationship between the employer and employee. 2. They can assist in reducing legal liability through the consistent application of workplace policies. We can hence summarize the pros of an employee handbook as follows. • Advantages of Employee Handbooks to Employers • Provides Understanding of Workplace Expectations • Promotes Policy Consistency

• Promotes Time Savings • Provides an Employee Orientation Tool • Provides a Management Tool • Documents Fair Employment Practices • Provides Information on Federal and State Employment Law • Provides Legal Defense • Defines Harassment Information • Advantages of Employee Handbooks to Employees • Provides Employee Education • Promotes Policy Understanding • Establishes Self-Esteem • Aids in Recruitment of Good Employees

THE DEMERITS OF HAVING AN EMPLOYEE MANUAL As noted earlier it is clear that there are many advantages to be derived from the use of operative, well-developed employee handbooks, there are also conceivable disadvantages concerning the use of such handbooks. These are as follows: An effective handbook must be updated on a regular basis, which requires the allocation of resources. An employee handbook must be clearly drafted and it must reflect the environment of the workplace foe which it is created.

Considering this it may be expensive for an employer as it requires time and energy to ensure that the contents of the handbook balance the actual expectations and realities that exist in the workplace. The contents of the employee handbook must be clearly communicated to the employees, which may require regular induction sessions regarding both the contents of and any transitions in the handbook.

The employer is required to apply the handbook consistently, and employers will be held to the standards that are created in the handbook and vice-versa.

The handbook creates a presumption that the written standards will be uniformly applied. When this is not achieved it results in the annoyance of the workforce, which then leads to employee filing a discrimination claim.

Poorly drafted and overly complex handbooks may be ignored by the supervisors/Managers,also written largely for legal reasons, policies will sound like they were written for legal reasons, not to assist with day-to-day operations.

Employee handbooks are only valuable if they are distributed and discussed with employees, as well as periodically reviewed and revised to ensure compliance with federal, state and local employment laws.

CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT VS. EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

As has been outlined above, there is a distinction between a contract of employment and an employee handbook. This distinction has both a legal and a practical effect. Legally, the parties to an employment situation are bound by the terms of the employment contract between them, and will be held to the terms and conditions of employment outlined in the contract. Employment contracts may be written or verbal, and frequently are restricted to matters such as salary, starting date, hours of work, benefits and provisions for ending the employment relationship.

It is not unusual in the context of an employment relationship that the terms and conditions of employment change with changes in the workplace and society, and that both parties fail to take the time to clarify or amend employment contracts to meet the changing needs of the workplace. It is important to note that a contract of employment is legally binding on the parties, and in the event of a dispute regarding the terms and conditions of employment, the parties will be held to the terms of the contract.

The practical effect of this is that when disputes arise regarding the nature of the contract of employment these disputes may become costly, if there is no means of verifying the parties' agreement on their respective rights and obligations arising from the contract.

An employee handbook on the other hand, is best viewed as an addendum to an employment contract. It is a mechanism by which an employer can outline in detail its expectations with respect to policies and procedures in the workplace with respect to a wide range of matters that are frequently not outlined in the employment contract. In order for an employee handbook to have any legal effect it must be incorporated into the employment contract and employees must be made aware of the contents of the handbook, as well as any changes that are made to the handbook over time. With respect to the employee handbook, the handbook has no legal effect if it is not incorporated into the employment contract or collective agreement.

If there is no clear evidence that the employees have been provided with a copy of the handbook, been made aware of the contents of the handbook and their rights and obligations arising from the handbook, it will be difficult to enforce the terms and conditions set out in the handbook. Practically speaking, this means that it is critical for employers to ensure that employee handbooks are not only clearly drafted, but that a mechanism exists to ensure that employees are provided with copies of the handbook as well as opportunities to receive education about the contents of the handbook.

CASE STUDY OF AN ORGANIZATION IN DUBAI- UAE WHICH HAS IMPLEMENTED AN EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

In course of researching the advantages and disadvantages of the article published by Nitya Sai Soumya, we came across 4 different establishments, which have opted to institute their respective employee handbooks. These organizations varied in terms of having a global presence or being an MNC to being a local entity in Dubai. Being a government controlled company to being fully privatized establishments. And finally, companies having varied employee strengths; from a few hundreds to strength ranging in thousands.

The four establishments that we researched were as follows: • SCIENTECHNIC, DUBAI. • SONY GULF, DUBAI. • AL-FUTTAIM TRADING, DUBAI and • ABU DHABI COOPERATIVE SOCIETY (Govt. owned.)

Of all the feedbacks obtained from the four organizations, we will be publishing the results of Scientechnic, Dubai in this report. For acquiring these results, we had requested an audience with the HR Manager of Scientechnic, Dubai, Mr Prabhu Arul for providing us with the valuable inputs.

1. Brief Introduction To The Organization:

Scientechnic is an Easa Saleh Al Gurg Company. This company was established in 1972 and presently has about +600 employees. The primary business of the company among others include Industrial Stock Sales (ISS), Power Systems (PS), Lightings, Telecom, Automation, Fire and Safety, Traffic Lights Managements Systems, Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) etc.

2. Feedback from Scientechnic:

The concept of an employee handbook in Scientechnic had come into existence 3 years ago. Since its inception in the year 2005, the employee handbook has undergone 2 revisions. Our findings are based on the current version of the handbook, i.e. in the year 2008.

3. Brief Contents of the Employee Handbook at Scientechnic:

In the employee handbook, Scientechnic welcomes its new employees with an introduction to EASA SALEH AL GURG GROUP. Following the introduction to the parent company of Scientechnic, the employee handbook further introduces the readers to all the 23 different companies associated with the Al Gurg Group. Some of the other prominent companies besides Scientechnic in the Al Gurg Group are:

• Interiors • Al Gurg Lever L. L. C • ID Design • Al Gurg Real Estate.

After getting acquainted with the parent group and its associate companies, the employee handbook further introduces new comers to their new abode; United Arab Emirates followed by an introductory note on the Emirate of Dubai. In these sections, the reader is familiarized with the prevailing climatic conditions of Dubai and of U. A. E on the whole, the ethnic dressing styles of U. A. E, the currency of U. A. E and the national and spoken languages.

Following these sections, working duration and the general dos and don’ts find their place in the employee handbook. These are succedded by the joining procedures followed by Scientechnic. The joining procedures comprises of:

• Recruitment and Selection • Induction • Probation Period • Passport • Work Permit • Bank Account Opening Formalities and lastly • Uniform

Following the joining procedures, service rules are mentioned in the employee handbook. Some of the main points in service rules are as follows:

• Leave Management • Air Tickets and Passages • Sick Leaves and • Attendance System

Being a company, where its employees have to interact with high profile clients on a regular basis and visits to client sites is frequent in nature, in almost all the departments of Scientechnic, a special note is included in the employee handbook with respect to the client site visiting etiquettes.

The employee handbook concludes with the Performance Management of the company, the exit policies of Scientechnic and the various procedures, which needs to be followed while separating from the company. All the exit policies of Scientechnic are bifurcated into two broad sections namely; Resignation and Termination.

FEEDBACK ABOUT THE EXISTING EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

Our discussion with Mr Prabhu came at a time when the employee handbook of Scientechnic, Dubai, was being prepared to be sent through another revision. According to Mr Prabhu, the existing employee handbook was sufficiently detailed in nature when it came to debriefing a person new to U. A. E or to Dubai. However, with reference to the policies included in the employee handbook, he had expressed his concerns about the insufficient details provided with reference to the vital policies such as performance management, joining procedures and the procedures involved in stamping of stamping of employment visa.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Websites: • Why a Company Should Have an Employee Handbook - Learning the Pros and the Cons - http://www.elinfonet.com/blog/index/wiki/Why_a_Company_Should_Have_an_Employee_Handbook_-_Learning_the_Pros_and_Cons/ • Employee Handbook - http://www.alexander.cleaver.com/html/employee_handbook_.html • Planning your employee handbook –

www.strategic-workplace-solutions.com/files/employeehandbookplanning.pdf

Articles: • Writing the Employee Handbook in Ontario By: Alison M. Dewar

Personal Reference: • Mr Prabhu Arul, Manager - HR, Scientechnic Dubai.