Your employee handbook is the main tool for setting expectations between you and your employees. It also helps avoids misunderstanding. You don’t have to have one, but if you don’t, it’s easy to be inconsistent and rely on verbal communications which can expose you to legal disputes.
You should implement procedures to make sure every employee receives a copy and acknowledges receiving the employee handbook and reading it. Make sure you follow it and beware of statements that modify your right to terminate your employees without cause (at-will employment).
Keep your handbook simple. Make sure it includes at-will language and a description of the procedure for employment contracts. Reserve your right to terminate an employee without cause.
The handbook should include items such as hours, pay, benefits including paid vacations, health benefits, sick pay, unpaid leave; whether vacation days can be carried into next year; and what happens when an employee quits. It should also include policies on things such as discrimination and sexual harassment, drug and alcohol abuse, social media, and safety. It should include your disciplinary procedures.
Your handbook should also include reporting mechanisms, investigation procedures, and disciplinary measures such as warnings, suspensions, transfers, demotions, and terminations. It should include non-retaliation standards. You might consider having a code of conduct. If you’re a government contractor, the law might require you to have a compliance and ethics program in place.