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Employee Handbook Acknowledgement

You’ve published an employee handbook. You announce and distribute it among your employees with high hopes that it will help keep your office safer and more compliant. But how will you ensure all of your employees read it, and how can you enforce company policy without the assurance that your employees are fully aware of them in the first place?

This is where an employee handbook acknowledgement form comes in. This form gives employers assurance that employees have read and understand the critical information in your employee handbook.

Without this form, your employee handbook will be nothing more than an optional guidebook, and its rules will be harder to enforce. So let’s talk about what an employee handbook acknowledgement form is, why it’s important, and how to draft one.

What Is an Employee Handbook Acknowledgement Form?

An employee handbook acknowledgement form is a document that employees sign to signify they have read, understand, and will comply with everything contained in the employee handbook.

These forms should be part of the new employee onboarding process. After you give new employees access to the handbook as well as an appropriate amount of time to read through it, you should require them to sign an employee handbook acknowledgement form.

Acknowledgement forms should also be sent out to existing employees as often as there are significant handbook updates or changes. Handbook acknowledgement forms usually indicate that the signee understands that changes can be made to the handbook at any time, but it’s safest to keep employees updated each time there is a handbook revision.

With any handbook or official company policy, there should be the acknowledgement receipts of each employee the policy applies to.

Why it’s Important to Have Employees Acknowledge Receipt of the Handbook

You’ve implemented the employee handbook and all employees have access to it, so why is it important to create a handbook acknowledgement form?

Your Handbook Will Have Authority

Without a signed acknowledgement form, your handbook is powerless.

When employees sign a handbook acknowledgment form, they’re agreeing in writing that the handbook has authority. They’re stating that they’ve read, understand, and will follow everything inside. After they’ve signed this form, they can’t use the excuse of ignorance. This makes employee relations issues much easier to solve, since you can refer back to the employee handbook that all the employees have read and agreed to.

Employees Will Be Motivated to Read the Handbook

When employees are required to sign a document that states they’ll follow a specific list of rules and procedures, they’ll be much more likely to read them.

In general, employees care about their employment and want to keep to the rules to avoid disciplinary action. With employee acknowledgement of the handbook, they’ll recognize that they won’t be able to use ignorance as an excuse, and they’ll be more likely to take the time to get familiar with what’s inside the handbook.

Employees Will Be More Likely to Follow the Handbook

Awareness precedes compliance.Employees won’t follow procedures and policies unique to your company if they don’t know about them.

If all of your employees are aware and dedicated to the handbook, they can keep each other accountable. Managers can enforce the policies with their employees. Co-workers can keep each other out of harm’s way when they’re aware of the company’s safety procedures. When everyone is aware of the rules, you won’t have to rely on the handbook or yourself to be the sole enforcers.

What to Include on Your Acknowledgement Form

To use this form as a tool to enforce everything in your employee handbook, make sure you include all of the following elements.

1. Statement of General Acknowledgement and Compliance

This is the focal point of the document where the employee agrees that they have received and fully read the handbook. Also include the statement that they’ve had the opportunity to ask questions about the handbook, and that they’ve received satisfactory answers. Lastly, add a section that states they understand and agree to comply with the handbook.

2. Statement Regarding Handbook Changes

All handbooks are revised over time as the company evolves or new laws become relevant. It’s important to have the employee agree that they understand the handbook can undergo changes at any time, with or without notice, when authorized by the HR department.

3. Employment At-Will Statement

Employee handbooks and other policies involving employee signatures can often be misunderstood as employee contracts that go against employment at-will directives. Thus, a section of this form should reassure signees that this is not an employee contract and that both they and their employer still have the right to terminate their employment for any reason at any time.

4. Other Affirmations

To reduce confusion or to keep the document clear and definitive, don’t be afraid to include other affirmations about the nature of the agreement or handbook. You could affirm that the handbook isn’t to fight against the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) or that it supersedes previous handbook versions. You could also emphasize the agreement of particularly important policies in the handbook like your harassment policy.

5. Employee Signature

Include spaces for the employee’s printed name, signature, and date. You could also include a space for a witness’s name and signature.

Sample Handbook Acknowledgement Form

Here is an employee handbook acknowledgement form template you may implement into your organization.

HANDBOOK ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND DISCLAIMER

I ________________________________________________,  have  received, read,  understood,  and  agree  to  comply with the  Employee Handbook for [company name], dated ___________________________, and understand all the information presented. I have been given an opportunity to ask any questions I may have and have received satisfactory answers to all of my questions.

I understand that the company has the maximum discretion permitted by law to interpret, administer, change, modify, or delete the rules, regulations, procedures, and benefits contained in the handbook at any time, with or without notice. No statement or representation  by  a  supervisor, manager,  or  any  other  employee,  whether  oral  or  written,  can  supplement  or  modify  this handbook. Changes can only be made if approved in writing by the HR Department of the company.

I also understand that any delay or failure by the company to enforce any rule, regulation, or procedure contained in the handbook does not constitute a waiver on behalf of the company or affect the right of the company to enforce such rule, regulation, or procedure in the future.

I  understand  that  this  Employee  Handbook  in  no way  establishes  or  implies  an  employee  contract. I  understand  that  I  am  an employee “at will” which means that I am free to terminate my employment with [company name] at any time, for any reason.  Similarly, [company name] may terminate me for any reason, or for no reason at any time.

I  have  read  the  policy  on  discrimination/harassment  and  understand  that  I  have  a  duty  to  report  to [company name] all  acts  of discrimination/harassment that I either witness or am involved with.

This handbook is not intended to preclude or dissuade employees from engaging in legally protected activities under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

This handbook supersedes any previous handbook or policy statements, whether written or oral, issued by [company name].

If I have any questions about the content or interpretation of this handbook, I will contact Human Resources.

I agree to comply with, and enforce, ALL the rules, policies, and procedures set forth in the Employee Handbook.

Employee’s Signature:  ________________________________________________

Print Employee Name:  ________________________________________________

Date:  ___________________________________________

Witnessed:  _______________________________________

How to Customize Our Acknowledgement Template for Your Organization

If you choose to use the above template for your organization, make sure you customize it as necessary. Start with filling in your organization’s name.

As mentioned above, sometimes it is good to include statements in the employee handbook acknowledgement form that reduce confusion. Reflect on the more important policies of your employee handbook as well as its overall objectives. You can include additional statements that you clearly want employees to be agreeing to.

What to Do if an Employee Refuses to Sign

If an employee refuses to sign the handbook acknowledgment form, have a conversation with the employee to discuss the reasons why they’re choosing not to sign, and see if the situation can be easily resolved. Sometimes there are simple misunderstandings about the form or handbook, or there are sections of the form or handbook that need to be updated or revised.

If the employee is still persistent on not signing, and you don’t want to terminate them, have them write “I refuse to sign” on the agreement. It’s a good idea to get a manager or witness to sign as well.

This refusal to sign means the employee does not agree to follow the handbook, but it doesn’t mean you still won’t enforce what’s in the handbook. Tell the employee that they will still be expected to follow the handbook’s policies and procedures, and that they’ll be subject to disciplinary action if necessary just like everyone else.

You should get their signed acknowledgement that they understand this, which may require typing up another acknowledgement form.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Employee Handbook Acknowledgement

When should employees sign an acknowledgement form?
Since you want all of your employees to sign an acknowledgement form, the best time to have them sign one is at the start of employment. Include the signing of this form as part of their onboarding process. But make sure you provide them with adequate time to read the handbook fully (usually a couple of days). Remember that if you make significant changes to the handbook, it’s safest to have all of your employees sign new handbook acknowledgement forms as soon as the new handbook is released.
Brandon Fluckiger

Brandon Fluckiger

Brandon is currently an MHR/MBA student attending Utah State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with three minors in HR, Business Management, and Technical Sales Management. He has experience as an HR generalist as well as in recruiting, data analytics, and talent development. He exercises his strong passion and commitment for HR by volunteering in leadership positions for his MHR cohort, participating in local SHRM chapter activities, and taking on every HR-related experience opportunity that presents itself.

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