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What not to include in employee handbooks

What Should You Never Include in Your Employee Handbook?

Your employee handbook should be something you’re proud to hand new employees on their first day of work. A well-written handbook takes into account your most important company policies and lays them out in an accessible format. Your handbook should be the personification of your company, giving employees the information they need to be effective team players. 

Employee handbooks serve several purposes that ultimately benefit both employees and employers. They save everyone time and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings. Perhaps one of their most important purposes is serving as a tool that helps employers limit the potential for litigation.

From vacation and benefits policies to state and federal employment laws, there are several topics you can’t afford to leave out of your handbook. However, did you ever contemplate what you should leave out of it? 

Shouldn’t My Employee Handbook Contain as Much Information as Possible?

A quality handbook should outline company policies that apply equally to all employees. It should also set expectations for your employees. The information in your handbook should be as concise as possible so that it’s less likely to be misinterpreted. 

The last thing you want is for your employee handbook to confuse, mislead, and misinform new employees, or otherwise cast your company in an unfavorable light. Below are some ideas for items to leave out of your handbook.

Restrictive Language that Limits Flexibility

As an employer, you should want your employee handbook to answer your employees’ most essential questions; however, while these answers should be the same for all employees most of the time, there is always the possibility that an unexpected circumstance will require you to make exceptions. If you use language like “must,” “will,” or “need,” you make it seem like the employee has no other alternative. On the other hand, words like “may,” “typically,” and “generally” allow you to choose how you want to interpret and apply the policies in your manual.

Potentially Misleading Terminology

A few terms might mislead or confuse employees and invite liability that could damage the purpose of the handbook. If your handbook currently contains any of the following phrases, consider updating it: 

  • Just cause: Colorado is an at-will employment state. You do not need just cause to terminate an employee. So, including this phrase might give employees the idea that they cannot be fired unless they violate a policy.
  • Permanent: This word, when used in relation to a job position, implies that the position is guaranteed. In Colorado, an at-will state, no positions are guaranteed. This may also cause confusion and invite legal action from an irate employee.
  • Due process: In a work environment, employees are not entitled to due process. Don’t promise due process for disciplinary actions.
  • Probationary period: The term “probationary period” is commonly used; however, it could give employees the impression that their employment status will change after their first 30, 60, or however many days of orientation and training they receive; when in fact, it might not. 

Your new hires are not automatically entitled to full-time employment, vacation time, or any benefits just because they completed some initial training. In an at-will state like Colorado, new hires should not expect to become a part of the team after the introductory period. Instead, consider using “orientation period.” 

Avoid Confusion and Potential Legal Action. Team Up with a Colorado Employment Attorney

Denver-based attorney Nathan Davidovich of The Davidovich Law Firm, LLC, has practiced employment law in Colorado exclusively for more than 55 years. Throughout his career, he has helped numerous companies of all sizes create effective handbooks that employees will read and understand. He currently holds a 100% Client Recommended review on For a clear, concise, informative, and engaging handbook, call (303) 825-5529 or complete our contact form.