A Guide to Writing an Effective Childcare Employee Handbook (2024)

A Guide to Writing an Effective Childcare Employee Handbook (1)

The teachers and staff you employ in your childcare program have many responsibilities. They care for children, communicate with families, plan lessons, track children’s progress, and so many other tasks that make your childcare center operate smoothly. An employee handbook is an important resource for your staff, clarifying expectations, responsibilities, policies, and benefits. With a thoughtfully designed handbook, you can foster a positive work environment, empower your employees, and ultimately create a thriving childcare program.

In this article, we’ll cover how to write an employee handbook, what sections to include, and share templates that can help you create your own.

A Guide to Writing an Effective Childcare Employee Handbook (2)

What is an employee handbook?

An employee handbook is a thorough, in-depth record of what all staff members need to know to be effective employees of your childcare business. It acts as a support tool for orientation and onboarding and a resource guide for ongoing daily use after training. Providing it in written form helps new staff quickly familiarize themselves with the content and retain it for the future. A handbook reinforces the standards of your business to ensure they’re consistently upheld by every employee.

An employee handbook will generally include all company policies and procedures, employee expectations and requirements, employer benefits, and general rules. For childcare providers, this may include details on providing care, staff-to-child ratios, communication with families, and more. This will differ from your handbook for families, which lays out all the information families need to understand about your program.

How to write an employee handbook

To create the best possible employee handbook for your business, it must include and cover the essential parts of your childcare program. You can tailor it to your unique circ*mstances, but there are still universal sections to include. To write an employee handbook, first, establish your audience. Understand who you’re writing this handbook for. You may have employees who care for children, assistants who complete administrative duties, facility managers who take care of the building, and other staff members. Your handbook needs to address all of them and include the following sections:

1. Welcome and mission statement
2. Employment at your center
3. Employment policies and procedures
4. Professional and ethical conduct
5. Professional growth and development
6. Employee disciplinary policy
7. Philosophy and curriculum
8. Expectations for working with children and families
9. Childcare practices
10. Health and safety practices and policies
11. Classroom maintenance and procedures
12. Emergency procedures
13. Volunteers/student teachers
14. Acknowledgment

1. Welcome and mission statement

The introduction section of your handbook includes a welcome note for staff and provides basic information about your childcare business, such as the history, current executive leadership, and childcare philosophy. Also, include a mission statement detailing the business's purpose and a follow-up paragraph on how the handbook serves that mission. This section can also have a table of contents or brief description about information in the rest of the handbook.

2. Employment at your center

Give an overview of information regarding employment at your center. Include any base requirements to qualify for employment, such as age, education, or health clearance and vaccinations. Also, add any employment policies regarding things like non-discrimination and non-harassment policies, at-will status, ADA compliance, and more.

A tool like brightwheel’s center management feature can streamline your staff records, giving you easy access to contact and health information and training hours and certifications.

3. Employment policies and procedures

Provide information on what employees can expect about working at your center and procedures for things like requesting time off or taking a leave of absence. Include specific information about work schedules, breaks and meal periods, and paydays. It is also important to outline your policies around overtime, vacation time, leaves of absence, and benefits eligibility.

4. Professional and ethical conduct

Working with families and children makes proper conduct especially important. This section summarizes all information about interacting with children, families, other employees, the center’s property, documents, records, and files. You may have policies for social media, dress code, photography, security, privacy, attendance, and more.

5. Professional growth and development

In this section, include everything your center does to support employees' success. For example, detail the onboarding and training process for new hires as well as any special events where their attendance is required like professional development days, fundraisers, or family-teacher conferences. This section can also include your policy on staff supervision and evaluations and continuing education that is available to your employees.

6. Employee disciplinary policy

Clearly lay out what actions are grounds for discipline or termination. Add the procedure for termination, receiving a final paycheck, and conducting an exit interview. Terms for voluntary termination can also be included here.

7. Philosophy and curriculum

Write a detailed description of the philosophy of your childcare center. Describe how you want the environment of your center to feel for your staff, children, and families. This section can also summarize your program’s approach to the curriculum and the developmental and educational basics that your program teaches.

8. Expectations for working with children and families

This section includes your expectations for how employees will manage various situations that will arise while working at your center. Describe procedures for staff regarding conflict resolution, communicating with families, recording observations and assessing children, and guidelines to keep children safe when playing on a playground or in water. Also, add information on mandated reporters and your center’s specific procedures for suspected abuse or neglect.

9. Childcare practices

Use this section for guidelines of staff responsibilities that are consistent parts of child care. Things like mealtime, nap time, diapering, and toilet training are a few examples of what to include. Use resources provided by your state to inform these guidelines and ensure they are compliant.

10. Health and safety practices and policies

It is up to your staff to keep themselves and the children healthy and safe. Include all of your practices and policies for reducing the spread of illnesses and bacteria and avoiding potential injury in this section. These may be rules for daily health screenings, cleaning and disinfecting, handwashing, and handling food. This section can also cover your daycare sick policy, medication administration procedures, and how to fill out an incident report.

With brightwheel's childcare incident reports feature, make it easy for staff to log incidents directly in the app as they happen. Provide your staff with digital incident report templates so it's easy to follow your reporting procedures. This can save your employees time and allow them to instantly update families and other staff members if an incident occurs at your program.

11. Classroom maintenance and procedures

Keeping your physical center in proper condition is important for maintaining the quality and safety of your childcare program. Include your center's opening and closing procedures as well as daily cleaning routines for your staff. Add checklists that staff can reference for these daily tasks.

12. Emergency procedures

Provide thorough instructions for staff in case of different emergencies. Your emergency preparedness plan can keep staff and children safe before, during, and after an emergency and reduce risks before they happen. Examples include what to do in the event of medical and non-medical emergencies, evacuations, and lock-down procedures.

13. Volunteers/student teachers

Any volunteers or student teachers that may work in your center must also follow guidelines for child care. For instance, volunteers or student teachers may require supervision from a staff member when watching children. Also include specific qualifications or training requirements for volunteers or student teachers.

14. Acknowledgement

In this section, provide space for staff members to acknowledge that they have received a copy of the handbook and have read and understand its contents. Include a line for their printed name, signature, and date. You can make this a perforated page to be torn out and kept for your records.

Employee handbook templates

Valve

Valve is a software company whose primary focus is creating PC games. They’ve published an employee handbook that provides a great example of engaging with and showcasing a company culture within the pages. It offers a detailed timeline of the company’s history, engaging illustrations, and even a step-by-step guide for how to use certain office equipment. It’s largely focused on an employee’s early days but also provides information about Valve that will be helpful once they’re no longer in training.

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Trello

Trello is a task management software company. Their handbook is built on the software that they offer. This makes it very user-friendly and a strong representation of the business. This is a great example of how to organize an employee handbook. The software makes it easy to read and simplifies information that could be overwhelming or hard to understand. It features a variety of categories that make it easy to follow through from beginning to end or go back to specific sections.

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GitLab

GitLab is a software platform company whose handbook is built into web pages. Structuring it this way makes it easy to navigate, search for specific sections, and digest over 2,000 pages of text. It gives each employee audience its own handbook within the larger handbook and tags who in the company is responsible for different sections. Since this is a clickable handbook, it also includes links to where employees can suggest improvements to the handbook and ask questions about its contents. It also links to a separate internal handbook with more specific information for employees to access.

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Employee handbook FAQ

Are employee handbooks legally binding?

No. Employee handbooks aren’t legally binding, even if an employee signs them to indicate their understanding of it.

Is an employee handbook a contract?

No. An employee’s agreement to work for your childcare program is equivalent to agreeing to the standards, policies, regulations, and rules of your business as detailed within the handbook. It is considered as a resource or tool for staff that they need to understand to be a successful employee, not a contract of employment.

Are employee handbooks required by law?

There is generally no legal requirement to have an employee handbook, though some local jurisdictions may require them. Certain childcare businesses may also be required to have an employee handbook at the request of their stakeholders, investors, or parent company.

Even without any formal requirement, it’s in your business’ best legal interest to have an employee handbook to help all staff avoid behaviors that may compromise your center's efficacy, safety, or compliance. Plus, the handbook provides a clear place to put specific information you are legally required to provide to employees, such as meal and rest periods, certain benefits, and pay information.

How long should an employee handbook be?

An employee handbook can be however long you need it to be to contain all of the important information for staff to know and understand.

How often can an employee handbook be updated or changed?

It is generally a good practice to review your employee handbook on an annual basis and make any changes or updates. Whenever an update occurs, notify your employeesimmediately so that they are aware of the changes. If it is a particularly significant change, then you may also request they sign a specific acknowledgement of it.

Customize your childcare employee handbook

Crafting an effective employee handbook is a crucial step in fostering a productive and harmonious work environment within your childcare center. By addressing the critical aspects of employment at your center and outlining important policies and procedures, you can provide your employees with the guidance and clarity they need to excel in their roles.

A well-crafted handbook not only ensures that your center operates efficiently but also instills confidence in your team members, empowering them to perform their duties effectively. A comprehensive employee handbook will become an invaluable resource for all your employees, contributing to the overall success and growth of your childcare business.

A Guide to Writing an Effective Childcare Employee Handbook (2024)
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