Recently I got engaged in discussion with a colleague who explained how she had not taken a holiday for the past three years. She was worn out, hard trouble concentrating, tired of the job, and unproductive at work. She went on explaining how she has never been aware of any processes she should go about requesting a leave. Everything here sounded wrong, so my first question was if she was aware of the Company’s Employee Handbook (the Handbook)! This is where I found out how the Company survived without a handbook. 

Every business needs a well-written Handbook. It is an essential communication tool that every employee must be given or have access to. The Company’s employee handbook needs to be a top priority for both the employee and employer. This article is not just for employers, but also for employees to understand why an employer has kept in place the Handbook and how important it is for them to be aware of the Handbook.

The Handbook is a simple and straightforward manual that outlines the Company’s policies, procedures, rules, and regulations. The goal of the Handbook is to create fair and consistent guidelines that apply to employees in the workplace. The Handbook is different from each employer, every employer being different, with their rules and procedures also vary widely, yet employees are required to abide by those rules. The Handbook contains several key sections and includes information about company culture, policies, and procedures. The Handbook can be used to bring together employment and job-related information, which employees need to know. Since this could make the contract of employment an enormous document, many employers restrict the contract to the bare essentials and provide more details in the Handbook. It is a good practice to refer the Handbook in the contract of employment to make it part of the contractual terms.

The employee handbook is usually a part of a company’s onboarding or induction process for all new staff. The Handbook gives clear advice to employees and creates a culture where issues are dealt with fairly and consistently. The Handbook needs to contain three types of content:

  • Cultural: A welcome statement, the Company’s mission or purpose, company values, and more.
  • General Information: Such as holiday arrangements, company perks, policy summaries, and more.
  • Case-Specific: Company policies, rules, disciplinary and grievance procedures, and other information modelled after employment laws or regulations.

The Importance of an Employee Handbook.

Creating the Handbook can seem like a daunting task, but having one brings many benefits, as explained below:

The Handbook is the first contact of communication on the Labour Legislations.

The Handbook has to establish how the company complies align with the employment legislation. The Handbook should proceed explaining the standards it expects from the management and employees within the organisation, how complaints from the employee or organisation will be addressed. The Handbook should follow all the Tanzania Labour legislations.

The Handbook introduces employees to the Company’s ethics and values.

One of the most critical aspects of the Handbook is to communicate clearly to employees what the Company’s goals and values are, how severe the Company is devoted to them and what consequences an employee may face if the values are broken.

The Handbook serves as an extension of the organisation’s policies and procedures.

By providing clear, accessible information, the Handbook ensures that everyone knows what is required of them and allows the employer to present their expectations consistently. The Handbook should ensure that company policies are clearly and consistently communicated to employees. The policies regarding Recruitment, Discrimination, Grievance, Health & Safety, Remuneration, Transfer, Performance Management, Training and Development, Travel, Leave, Disciplinary and Termination of Contract.

The Handbook is a guiding point to managers and the way they lead their teams.

Managers can refer to the Handbook when answering questions or making decisions and ensure their answers and actions are consistent with the Company’s policies and best practices. Employers can use employee handbooks as a way of providing managers/supervisors with guidance on key management policies, such as staff performance and corrective action and interviewing and hiring guidelines. All managers can use these guidelines to ensure they deal with things consistently.

The Handbook communicates to employees what is expected of them.

A well-prepared Handbook provides employees with a clear understanding of the working relationship and emphasises the organisation’s expectations. The Handbook is the chance of the Company to inform employees about: The annual leave and internal procedures. The whistleblowing procedure to any outstanding fraud or misconduct that the employee may wish to report. Expectations regarding employee behaviour (ethical values) and how discrepancies in such may bring consequences to employees. How the Company deals with misconduct activities.

Precautions to be taken while preparing the Handbook.

  • The Handbook should be straightforward and in a simple language and easy to understand.
  • The Handbook should be thorough and cover a variety of essential practices and policies; the Handbook should not be too broad and “unmanageable.”

The Handbook should avoid legal jargons that will confuse the employees, remember this is a communication tool.

  • The Handbook should be regularly updated, mainly because the laws change, and the Handbook can become an essential tool in case of lawsuits.
  • The Handbook should not include policies and procedures that the Company does not adhere to.
  • The Handbook should inform employees of their rights while at the same time defends the Company against lawsuits arising out of their lack of understanding of the Company’s rules and policies.

Lastly, The Handbook should not be a downloaded template from the Internet. This problem is among the most common mistake employers make while preparing the Handbook, where one searches a template online and downloads it to use it across the workplace. Frequently these handbooks are outdated, and not in compliance with the ever-changing legal landscape. Besides, these handbooks are not customised for the intended industry and are not representative of the said “corporate culture.”

As much as there are Employment and Labour Relations laws, the Handbook stands as the most crucial tool to guide the employer on the day to day workplace organisations.

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