An HR policy manual, or human resources manual, is a document written by a company that explains the various policies and procedures that arise, or could potentially arise, in the context of recruiting, hiring, retaining, promoting, paying, retiring and firing employees, as well as the procedures and guidelines for administering employee benefits. A thorough and well-prepared HR policy manual, and faithful adherence to it, can go a long way in preventing lawsuits and in defending your company and its managers in the event of an employee dispute.
Companies use HR manuals to clearly establish company policies and notify employees and managers alike of their rights and obligations under the terms of their employment. Examples include statements of nondiscrimination, procedures and criteria for selecting applicants for hiring and promotion, establishing standards for attendance and employee discipline, and laying out a policy to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest when employees have outside business or political activities.
The senior management of the company is ultimately responsible for the HR manual's contents. However, a large number of federal and state laws directly affect your human resources operation. These laws impose very specific requirements, and require an ongoing effort on behalf of your management and HR professionals and legal advisers to administer. You should craft your HR manual with the expert input of your HR head and an experienced employment law attorney.
You will need to specifically address a few major laws no matter what industry you are in. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), also called the Wages and Hours Act, governs minimum wage, overtime, record keeping and child labor laws. The Family and Medical Leave Act defines when an employer must grant leave to an employee to care for a sick or injured dependent. And the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act defines employer responsibilities when an applicant or employee is a member of the Reserve Component of the Armed Forces of the United States.
HR Manuals as Contracts
Some employers have had new employees sign a document acknowledging receipt of the employee manual and reference the manual in their employment contract. Use caution when doing this, however, since you may not be able to make necessary changes to your HR manual without the express written consent of the employee.