An employee handbook is a highly valuable document for any company to create. The handbook is not only a handy tool for communicating with your people, but it is also necessary to protect your company from legal risk. The more comprehensive your company’s handbook – the more likely you are to achieve both goals! Employee handbooks are especially important for non-Dutch companies operating in the Netherlands.

A handbook creates the opportunity for your HR team to communicate procedures that may be common knowledge in your home country, but not in the Netherlands (or vice-versa). In this article, we’re going to look at what makes up a great employee handbook and what your HR team needs to keep in mind for the Dutch market.

The employee handbook as a legal tool

Although companies are not legally required to create an employee handbook in the Netherlands, they are often used in court proceedings. The employee handbook details the procedures and policies in your company or office and can help you prove your compliance.

One best practice surrounding the employee handbook is to ask for signatures from your employees once they’ve read it, as well as every time it is updated. Proving that you’ve accurately communicated procedures is an important portion of compliance – so asking for signatures are a sure-fire way to prove you’ve sufficiently communicated to your employees.

The employee handbook for communication

Efficient and clear communication is key to productivity within your team. Because your handbook details procedures, it can always be used as a reference whenever an employee needs to follow a specific procedure. Once the procedure is in the handbook, there’s no need to re-discuss the course of action, responsible person, or point to escalate.
At the same time, an employee handbook protects your company from employees abusing your policies as a result of operational oversight. For example, your business could offer reimbursements for any equipment purchased to furnish a home office. If you fail to communicate your expectations about which equipment can be purchased, you run the risk of approving costs for general home improvement, decorations, etc.

Employee handbook versus employee contract

When writing an employee handbook, it’s easy to get confused and include information that really belongs in an individual employee contract. Unlike the employee handbook, there are legally required items that must be mentioned in every employee contract. Sometimes, it’s necessary to reiterate items from an employee contract again in an employee handbook. This is normally the case for items such as a notice period. In essence, the employee handbook should supplement employee contracts.

Topics to cover in an employee handbook

In just a few words, we’ve described some of the topics your employee handbook needs to discuss. Review the list below, and continue reading the article for more details about a specific topic.

  • Code of conduct
  • Working time and overtime policy
  • Financial remuneration policy
  • Expense policy
  • Leave policy
  • Sickness/absence policy
  • Termination policy

Code of conduct

How you regulate your company’s work environment is entirely up to your HR team to decide. This section is meant to clarify your expectations about your employee’s behaviour. Here are a few examples of policies you can create for your company:

  • Social media and Internet use
  • Dress code / clothing
  • Alcohol and drugs / smoking policy

Working time and overtime policy

It’s important to define standard working times, and the approval procedures in the event overtime is necessary. Productive businesses usually have their team working together within a specified timeframe. Especially with the rise of remote work, it’s important that you are able to communicate expected working time so that everyone is available when they’re needed most.

Even if overtime work is something your company tries to avoid, it’s still necessary to develop a procedure to approve overtime hours. More likely than not, at some point, you will need an employee to work more hours than they are legally required – and your company is at risk if this procedure is not in place.

Financial remuneration policy

As an employer, it is your legal obligation to communicate to your employees when they will be paid, as well as any procedures to access the compensation they are entitled to. In this section of the handbook, there are a few topics worth explaining:

  • When is salary paid?
  • Information about pension (if applicable)
  • How much will employees be paid in the event of illness or injury?

Expense policy

Oftentimes, employees need to make expenses on behalf of your business. Whether it’s to buy lunch for a client, re-order office supplies, or purchase equipment for their home office, it’s more efficient (and less risky) to put a policy in place for your employees to make those expenses. Do you distribute company credit cards to certain positions? Are employees making purchases themselves where they’re reimbursed? Are there additional documents the employee needs to fill-out in order to get their expenses approved? Who is responsible for approving these expenses?

Sickness/injury policy

Accidents happen – somebody can fall ill, get injured outside of work, or burn-out. Dutch employers are legally required to pay 70% of an employees’ salary during the time they are absent due to illness or injury. However, many employers choose to deviate and pay a higher amount. This is an excellent example of a procedure to detail in your employee handbook, as well as:

  • Communication procedures and check-ins during sick leave (method and frequency)
  • Approaches your company will take to reintegrate ill or injured employees back to work
  • How to request leave when ill or injured
  • Reporting procedures about your employee’s recovery

Leave and absence policy

Absences happen – somebody can get sick, injured outside of work, go on holiday, etc. Obviously, limiting absences is the ideal scenario – but developing a procedure is the best way to ensure your company can maintain productivity when life happens to your employees.

In the Netherlands, your employees are entitled to minimum of 20 days of paid leave. Therefore, if you detail the procedure to request leave in your employee handbook, you will be creating additional evidence that your company is compliant in this aspect.

Termination/separation policy

Perhaps the most important procedure to cover in your employee handbook is termination. Terminations are one of the higher risk activities for any company, so it’s a good practice to set these expectations for the employees in writing.

  • A few procedures to think about when writing a termination/separation policy:
  • Notice period
  • Settlement or severance payment schedule
  • Employees rights to legal resources
  • Procedure for handing-in company-owned equipment/resources

Expert support crafting an employee handbook

There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach for crafting an employee handbook. Employee handbooks are not required by Dutch law, but they are incredibly valuable for improving communication, increasing productivity, and protecting your organisation from legal risk. If you contact one of our specialists, we can help you identify risky procedures in your organisation and draft a procedure compliant with Dutch law.