The employee handbook: all agreements in one document

Do you want to create clarity for your staff and avoid discussions? Draw up an employee handbook. The best employee handbooks contain information about workplace policies, procedures and rules. That way you and your employees know exactly what to expect.

Job interviews and contract negotiations usually cover a lot of ground, with topics ranging from duties and team dynamics to salary and working conditions. Usually, contracts are signed long before you have a chance to discuss general rules and your company’s code of conduct. With an employee handbook, you can collect all important information in one place, so you both know where you stand. If you refer to the handbook in the employment contract, the policies, procedures, rules and more will become legally valid.

What to include in an employee handbook

An employee handbook contains the company’s code of conduct and rules that you do not usually find in an employment contract or Collective Labour Agreement CAO. You can consider adding rules on:


It is best to draw up an employee handbook from the moment you hire your first employee. According to industry organisation Inretail’s Margriet Baan, “Drawing up an employee handbook is a good way to start thinking about various aspects of an employer-employee relationship.” As a business consultant, Baan is familiar with the ins and outs of employee handbooks. “By putting a broad set of agreements in black and white, both parties know where they stand and what is expected of them. This will reduce the chance of bickering and misunderstandings further down the road.”

Employee handbooks also come in handy when you want to amend existing rules. After all, if you have a single document with all rules, you do not have to negotiate every change with all employees individually. Changes still have to be approved by a works council or employee representatives. Involving employees in this process and giving them a say in the implementation of the employee handbook is a way to build more support.

Writing your employee handbook

Before you get started, draw up a checklist (in Dutch) with all the topics you want to cover. Next, make a list of all the agreements you have with your employees and add new ones. Then integrate them into a single, easy to read document. The best employee handbooks have a positive tone of voice. Create support for the handbook among your employees. That way it becomes a reference document that everyone can use for guidance, rather than a list of unilateral rules.

Creating an employee handbook takes time and requires careful planning. Remember that “employee handbooks are primarily intended to provide guidance and outline practical agreements”, Baan advises. “The trick is not to overcomplicate things and to avoid minute details.”

DIY or ready-made

You can either draw up your own employee handbook or you can bring in a third party to make one for you. “Not everyone has the time, energy or expertise needed to draw up their own handbook. That is why our industry organisation has a general employee handbook (in Dutch) template for retailers”, Baan explains. “It is about 30 pages long and complies with all the legal requirements that retailers have to meet. It also outlines the basics of being a good employer and employee.”

Employers in other industries can find multiple examples of employee handbooks online. ANKO, the trade association of hairdressers (in Dutch), has its own template, for example. Need help finding the right employee handbook for you? Contact the KVK Advisory Team.

Customise the template by adding your own rules and tweaking the information so that the document reflects your company’s policies and procedures. “This process can be made significantly easier by working with an expert organisation. Last but not least, make sure that your employee handbook is up to date with the latest laws and regulations.”