Employee Manual
or Policy Manual?




Employee manual and policy manual may appear to refer to the same thing. Some people believe this and, therefore, combine them.

But is it true that these two set of documents are the same?

If your employees have a good understanding of the legalities and how bureaucracy works, you do not need both manuals.

But you do not often find organizations where this is the case.

Does this Manual actually differ from a Policy Manual? If so, in what ways do these differ from each other?

You can say that in principle they are the same yet different. The differences include:

  • A policy manual states the principles while the employee manual provides the implementation guidelines;
  • The first provides broad guidelines whereas the second provides details of policies, about performance of work and other things related to the employer-employee relationship.
  • The contents of the first manual do not form part of the terms and conditions of appointment. Some of the contents of the other manual may form part of the terms and conditions of appointment.

The first document is an important document that you need to issue to everyone of your employees. It is an effective way of communicating policies and procedures to your employees.

Included in it are the mission statement and also, in many cases, the HR mission statement.

An Employee Manual is in written form to ensure that employees will clearly understand what it means to work for the organization.

You can also use it as the basis for taking action, whether remedial, corrective or disciplinary, where there is a serious failure to adhere to any of the provisions.




Record Receipt of Employee Manual by Employees

It is necessary that you make every employee acknowledge receipt of a copy of the manual. This is to prevent any issue of non-compliance arising from misunderstanding as alleged by employees due to absence of personal copies given.

Do not just put a copy in the general office and inform employees that they can refer to that copy. It is not easy to prevent loss or damage to that office copy. By all means, put a copy in an area accessible to everyone but give a copy each to every employee.

Since you are giving a copy to each of your people, ensure that nothing in the Employee Manual contradicts the contents of the Policy Manual. This can cause you difficulty.

To prevent any danger of the loss or accidental or deliberate alterations of this important document, keep at least two copies in a safe place. Mark these as the controlled copies. These will become the ultimate reference materials in the event of review. A record is inserted in a file stating that there are controlled copies kept somewhere. This is a file opened for the purpose of managing the Manual.

It is always a sound filing practice to have the record cross-referenced to a general file meant for closely-related subjects.

Another important principle to follow (in this digital age) is to keep a password-protected digital copy. Publish a copy of both manuals in your intranet if you have implemented such a system.


Timely Review of Employee Manual

Make it a policy to have the manual reviewed from time to time to reflect the actual situation in your organization and as the result of new legislation.

Conducting a yearly review is too burdensome. You may choose a period of between three to five years with the possibility that you can carry out a review at any time if the situation requires it.

If you choose to review the manual after more than a year, you can issue a circular informing everyone if there are changes made as the result of new legislation or management decision in response to certain important events affecting the organization.

You can incorporate these changes later on when you change the contents of the Employee Manual.

In summary,

  • Where necessary (in principle, it is preferable) prepare an Employee Manual in addition to the Policy Manual as a method of communicating important policies and procedures, and rules and regulations;
  • Give every employee a copy and make the employee acknowledge receipt of it;
  • Keep at least two controlled copies in a safe place and make a record where they are kept, and a protected digital copy;
  • Review the manual at regular intervals in order to update it to reflect present conditions;
  • Issue an official circular signed by the CEO if changes are required before the stipulated time for review. Conduct the review if required by new legislation or management has made important decisions pertaining to employer-employee relationship.

The major part of this responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Human Resource Manager and HR specialists.

However, the ultimate responsibility rests with the Chief Executive Officer.




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