Published by
Mike Bandar
Employee Onboarding
6 mins

Employee Handbook vs Employee Manual: What's the difference?

The term "Employee handbook" and "Employee manual" may seem interchangeable, but they serve distinct purposes within an organization. Differentiating between these two items is crucial for ensuring that the right individuals have access to the relevant information, ultimately reducing liability risks. This article seeks to dissect the nuances between employee handbooks and employee manuals, exploring their purposes, contents, and prerequisites.

Let's delve into the realm of distinguishing employee handbooks from employee manuals.

Defining an Employee Handbook

An employee handbook functions as a resource offering valuable insights into the workings of your organization for its employees. Striving for clarity and simplicity in language is essential, avoiding unnecessary legal jargon. The aim is to foster a comprehensive understanding of company expectations and commitments.

In essence, the employee handbook provides a broad overview of employee expectations and the company's commitments to its workforce. For a more detailed understanding, you can explore our article on "What is an Employee Handbook?"

Understanding an Employee Manual

On the other hand, an employeemanual serves as a comprehensive guide for those overseeing policies, such as the HR team, leadership, and managers. Unlike the employee handbook, the employee manual is more detailed and is focused on policy administration. It includes procedures, forms, and may elucidate relevant employment laws associated with each policy.

The employee manual is not intended for widespread employee use; rather, it furnishes administrators with in-depth guidance for handling complex situations. This can range from providing examples of appropriate responses in certain scenarios to addressing challenging topics.

Purpose Distinctions: Employee Handbook vs. Employee Manual

While both documents cover similar subjects, they cater to distinct audiences and purposes. The employee handbook targets employees, empowering them to comprehend and meet expectations, answering common questions. Conversely, the employee manual is designed for those overseeing policies, offering detailed guidance on policy administration beyond what the average employee needs to know.

Employee Handbook vs. Employee Manual Contents Variations

Employee handbooks should not merely be guides on "how not to get in trouble." Instead, they should reflect and promote the company's culture, especially during onboarding. These handbooks include high-level policy overviews, basic benefits information, and general company procedures.

In contrast, an employee manual operates as a governing document, akin to bylaws, and is more formal and operational. It encompasses steps to follow in various situations, relevant resources, and legal considerations. The manual provides administrators with comprehensive insights into policy application.

Legal and Compliance Considerations for Employee Handbook vs. Employee Manual

Both documents contribute significantly to ensuring compliance with employment laws and regulations. Employee handbooks create a foundation for employee enforcement, while employee manuals ensure fair and consistent policy implementation, thereby mitigating legal risks.

By clearly documenting policies and procedures, organizations can navigate potential legal pitfalls, especially in areas such as hiring, terminations, health and safety, pay and benefits, and employee conduct.

Employee Handbook vs. Employee Manual Additional Variances

When deciding which document to develop first, starting with the employee handbook allows for an identification of cultural priorities, aligning subsequent policies accordingly. Regular reviews of both documents are essential for maintaining continuity, eliminating interpretation discrepancies.

In essence, the employee manual enhances the employee handbook by providing detailed guidance for administrators, enabling consistent decision-making in complex situations.

Summary Table: Employee Handbook vs. Employee Manual

Final Considerations

Both an employee handbook and an employee manual are recommended, ensuring consistency and avoiding discrepancies. While the handbook should be employee-friendly, promoting company culture, the policy manual is a detailed tool for policy administration.

Waybook simplifies the creation of a user-friendly digital handbooks, combining high-level policy overviews with expandable sections for detailed information. For a deeper dive into Waybook's capabilities such as the AI SOP Writer, which can write and organize your policies and procedures in seconds, sign up for a free trial or request a demo today.

Want to get more insights on the future of Growth & Knowledge Management? Check out our related resources: