An employee handbook is given to a staff member when he or she first joins a business. It’s the ‘go-to’ book for all information relating to the values, morals, day-to-day operations and expectations of any business. While it’s helpful for new staff members to learn the ropes and get a grasp of what is expected of them, what purpose does it serve to a virtual assistant?
A virtual assistant is generally hired as a contractor to a firm or company, but if you were to ask any member of an employment court, they would generally deem them to be anything. Because virtual assistant services are relatively new, there’s a grey area on what virtual assistants actually are. Are they an employee or a contractor? If they’re on the payroll, they’re most certainly deemed to be an employee.
Therefore, it’s important that your virtual assistant receives their very own employee handbook – whether it’s posted, or emailed.
So how do you customise that employee handbook to suit your virtual assistant? After all, virtual staffing services don’t exactly count as a standard form of employment.
Below we list five alterations that can be made, in order to cater to your new virtual assistant.
While much of the handbook is standard, the employment classification section can vary, depending on the contract the staff member or virtual assistant holds. This is the section which generally lists a staff member as either a full time, part time, casual or temporary employee. It outlines their day-to-day tasks, their benefits and the way their contract is structured. This, in most cases, won’t be relevant to a virtual assistant.
You should outline clearly what it means to be a virtual assistant for your company and how their employment is classified within the business.
When the attendance policy is listed in staff manual or handbook, it generally mentions repercussions and processes for failing to turn up to work. This can include a warning, a written warning and then dismissal. For a virtual assistant, they don’t “turn up” to work at all, so how does it work for them? Within this area, it’s important you outline your communication requirements.
This could include failure to hold a conference call with you at a prearranged time, or failure to respond to instructions/orders/communication via email or in any other form can result in dismissal. If work is not completed and communication has gone cold, this also can result in dismissal. Give a timeframe and outline the processes involved with the dismissal process.
Even though virtual staffing solutions are a relatively new career path, it has been troublesome for some businesses. The main problem being communication. Once hired, some virtual assistants, and even those providing digital services, have been known to just stop being contactable. When a virtual assistant is based overseas, it’s far easier for them to do this as opposed to those working within your establishment.
Many companies and businesses offer staff perks and benefits for being a staff member. This could include staff discount on products and services, or bonuses for meeting targets. Not all of these benefits will be possible for your virtual assistant, therefore you need to alter this section to suit them.
That doesn’t mean you can’t treat your virtual assistant. After all, a good virtual assistant is one who feels valued. However, it may just need to be altered. For example, meeting deadlines and targets can be rewarded with a bonus payment, or you may offer incentives for additional work produced. Some employers even go the extra mile by providing vouchers as end-of-year gifts for virtual assistants. Being overseas is no longer a barrier to being kind and generous as an employer.
The health and safety section of an employee handbook generally relates to the procedures within that particular location. It could include a fire exit, a meeting point, where the fire extinguisher and first aid kit is stored, among other things. It could even include opportunities to become a fire warden or a first aid responder. This is often not applicable in the case of someone providing a virtual staffing service.
While ‘safety’ can most certainly refer to the safety of protected documents within an online setting, it more or less relates to personal and professional safety. Therefore, you could choose to exclude this section altogether, or turn it into an ‘online safety’ section about the importance of keeping documents and files confidential.
Some employers choose to customise each handbook to include an employee’s particular contractual obligations. This can include their working hours. It can be difficult for a virtual assistant to align their working hours with that of the business they are working for. This is particularly true in the case of those working from overseas. Therefore, this section of the handbook will need to either be altered, or removed.
If you are looking to alter it, you could outline your expectations in regards to the hours worked. For example, if your virtual assistant is paid to work full time, it could be an obligation that they must work the full 40 hours. This can be tracked using a time tracking app, or manually if you trust your assistant.
It would be redundant to include their actual working hours, unless you require that they are online when your business is open. This is up to the individual employer and employee.
In line with the working hours, it also pays to be aware of your obligations with holiday pay and sick pay. If you’re unsure of your requirements in this respect, it may be best to speak to a lawyer. The grey area with virtual staffing positions means that you may have to pay holiday and sick leave even if you don’t believe you are legally required to. Include this customised information with your handbook.
Are you an employer who has provided a virtual assistant with a handbook? If so, what did you include in it? Or are you a virtual assistant who has received one? We’d like to hear what was involved.