Employee Handbook On A Wooden Desk.

Why your restaurant needs an employee handbook

Kerri S. Reisdorff, an employment attorney with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., talked to us about the importance of having up-to-date employee handbooks at your restaurant.

Mize Houser: “Kerri, restaurant owners don’t always believe that having employee handbooks are important or they think that they’re a hassle and too expensive to create. What is your opinion about employee handbooks?”

Kerri: “Just like any other business, an owner needs to inform employees of their expectations – this is especially true in the restaurant industry where there is significant employee turnover.  Having an employee handbook will help you clearly set expectations for your staff, ensure that your policies are legally compliant, and provide consistency with communicating and enforcing your policies.”

Mize Houser: “Do employee handbooks need to be big binders full of detailed policies? Or do you suggest owners keep handbooks short and sweet?”

Kerri: “A 40-page book dilutes the important policies and makes it less likely that your employees will read it. You don’t need a policy covering every possible topic or issue. We recommend that you just include the polices that are applicable to your restaurant, legally required, and that your employees need to know. It is also important that the handbook not overly commit the restaurant. It is important that owners retain sufficient discretion.”

Mize Houser: “What policies are important enough to be acknowledged separately?”

Kerri: “Consider whether some polices should be “stand alone” and separately acknowledged (in addition to an overall handbook acknowledgement). I generally recommend that stand-alone policies include policies regarding harassment and discrimination; hourly timekeeping policies, and electronic communication policies for employees who have access to restaurant phones or computer servers.”

Mize Houser: “What other suggestions do you have for restaurant owners?”

Kerri: “A few other things to keep in mind are to always have new hires read and sign off on the manual before they start working. Be sure to retain a copy of all handbook and policy acknowledgements. You should also consider including your mission, core values, and your restaurant’s motto. It’s important for your employees to understand your passion for starting your restaurant. A handbook should also notify employees who to contact in the organization for questions relating to specific topics or concerns. You should regularly review your handbook to ensure it is timely with respect to expectations, policies, and legal compliance.”

Mize Houser: “Kerri, does a restaurant owner need to have an attorney help them write the handbook? Or can an owner do it without legal help?”

Kerri: “Good question. There are trade organizations that can provide templates and ideas on where to start. And HR consultants can be helpful too. However, given the number of federal, state, and local laws that impact your restaurants, it is important that a handbook be reviewed for legal compliance and best practices before it is implemented.”

Mize Houser: “Great advice, Kerri. Thank you!”

You can learn more by visiting Olgetree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C..