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Employee Manual Generator

A Guide for Massachusetts Farms

This employee manual generator will walk you through the steps to develop an effective and legally sound employee manual for your farm. To start, scroll to the bottom of this page, click “Begin Manual,” and follow the prompts to draft your manual, referring to the guidance provided for each section on content, sample language, and/or relevant legal considerations. Note that this guidance is designed to help you follow best practices and applicable laws in Massachusetts, but it is not a legal document and is not exhaustive. Please email Kristen Wilmer if you have any questions or would like additional help completing your employee manual.

Why have an employee manual?

An employee manual that is legally sound and consistently followed can provide a solid foundation for good employee-employer communication, in addition to clarifying managers’ and workers’ responsibilities to one another. Communicating clear expectations to your employees can lead to better work performance. Providing your employees with clear methods for raising and resolving workplace issues can also lead to more effective communication, with greater trust and mutual respect.

An employee manual can be legally protective as well – Massachusetts and federal law require that some policies be provided to employees in writing, and it is often easiest to put legally required notifications in one spot. In addition, employee manuals can help ensure consistent employee treatment, avoiding real or perceived discrimination.

It is important to note, however, that having an employee manual that lays out policies that are not actually followed can be worse than having no employee manual at all. It is often counterproductive, as well as legally risky, to develop an employee manual that doesn’t reflect actual farm practices, or that has policies that are not consistently modeled and/or enforced by the managers on the farm.

A good employee manual which avoids these pitfalls and takes into account the best practices and legal considerations outlined in this employee manual generator can be an excellent starting point in ensuring a legal, ethical, and productive work environment at your farm.

A good employee manual should…

  • Reflect actual practices! An employee manual should only contain policies and procedures that the farm is committed to following – it is well worth taking your time to think through each section of your employee manual to ensure that this is true.
  • Lay out clear expectations and a code of conduct for all employees, while also allowing for sufficient management discretion.
  • Provide a road map for legal and ethical employee treatment, helping you evenly apply policies while avoiding favoritism and inconsistent or unpredictable decision-making.
  • Communicate your farm’s workplace culture and history to employees.
  • Make it easier for you to orient new employees, ensuring that all employees are aware of benefits, compensation, expectations, and workplace policies.
  • Help you satisfy legal requirements for notifying your employees about policies by including policies in one place, in plain language.
  • Be carefully reviewed to ensure that it is in accordance with all Massachusetts and federal laws. The information in this employee manual generator discusses key laws to keep in mind for each section. We also encourage you to have your manual reviewed by an attorney if possible; please contact CISA for referrals and to inquire about available financial support.
  • Be provided to employees in writing in a language they can read, and be explained to workers orally in a language they understand (especially in the case of workers with low literacy). If you are not fluent in the language(s) of your employees, you may want to work with a trained interpreter to orient your employees (in person and/or with a training video). If you need help connecting with translators/interpreters, please contact CISA for referrals and to inquire about available financial support.
  • Be evaluated on a yearly basis, since employment laws change frequently. CISA staff are available to help you stay abreast of employment law updates that might apply to your farm. If an attorney has reviewed your manual, we suggest you return to the same attorney for annual reviews: this can save money, allowing them to focus on changes to applicable laws.
  • Be provided to employees by their supervisor/manager, who should make themselves available to answer employees’ questions and should document that the manual was provided and explained to each employee in a way that they understood.

BEGIN MANUAL

This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program under subaward number ONE18-311-32231.

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