Employee Handbook

Lawsuits against ministries, and Christian schools and colleges, even those brought by ministry employees, are commonplace. For this reason, it’s more important than ever for employers to clearly communicate their expectations to their employees.

One way to do this is to develop and distribute an employment handbook. It’s important to remember that courts and Congress are constantly shaping the area of employment law. Therefore, your handbook should be reviewed and revised on a regular basis. In many cases, an out-of-date handbook can be as harmful as not having a handbook at all.

Establish Expectations

The purpose of an employment handbook is to provide guidelines regarding the expectations that you, the employer, have established for employee performance. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity for employers to communicate some of the benefits employees may receive during their employment with your ministry.

Require Review

When developing an employment handbook, there are a number of factors to keep in mind. First, it’s critical that you ask a local attorney to review your handbook. State and local laws may apply to your organization that don’t affect employers in other parts of the state or country.

Next, because employment law is constantly changing, handbooks should be reviewed at least once every two to three years. If necessary, they should be revised to comply with current law.

Involve Communication & Commitment

Finally, your handbook policies should be communicated to employees and followed consistently. This is a vital step for limiting liability. We recommend communicating the policies to your employees at various times. Three opportunities include: when people begin employment, when significant changes to policies are made, and when you’ve experienced significant turnover in staff. Certain policies, such as sexual harassment and equal opportunity policies, should be reviewed with all employees annually.

Follow General Guidelines

Here are some best practices to keep in mind as you develop your handbook.

An employment handbook should:

  • Be concise, accurate, informative, and straightforward.
  • Set forth the minimum standards under which your ministry operates.
  • Include a simple statement of your ministry’s mission.
  • Include a set of guidelines and principles upon which your ministry plans to operate.
  • Be a resource for employees to find answers to simple questions regarding benefits and workplace policies.
  • Serve as a tool for communicating policies that are required by law or that are necessary to limit your liability.
  • Be clear that the handbook may be revised at any time and supersedes previous versions of the handbook.

An employment handbook should not:

  • Be a lengthy document addressing every conceivable situation that might occur.
  • Serve as a replacement for an employment contract.
  • Be a rigid set of rules of conduct and consequences.
  • Be a detailed explanation of all benefits offered to employees.

Include the Right Policies

Well-drafted employment handbooks provide concise, relevant guidelines that supply necessary information to employees. Because every organization has different needs and procedures, the policies that you include in your handbook may differ from those of other organizations.

In some cases, legal and risk management issues will dictate that you include certain guidelines. We have organized the policies into three categories to help you determine which policies you may wish to include in your handbook: Critical, Strongly Encouraged, and Optional. We have created sample policies in each category to help you get started - click on the tabs on the right.