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This Model Policies and Forms for Illinois Employers is offered to you for free. Find state specific laws and regulations below.

Employer resources — Illinois Templates

Handbooks and policies

One of the more critical issues facing employers in today’s legal environment is whether and how to draft and publish an employee handbook or personnel manual containing the employer’s personnel policies and procedures. As many employers have learned through experience, an employee handbook – typically distributed to employees for their personal use – or a personnel manual – usually maintained in the human resources office and made available to employees upon request – can be an extremely beneficial tool in accomplishing the employer’s human resources objectives.

A carefully prepared, well‑drafted employee handbook or personnel manual provides an employer with an ideal opportunity to communicate to its employees the philosophy of the company with respect to its customers, products, and workforce, as well as the employer’s specific expectations as to individual employee performance and conduct. Such a document also permits an employer to establish standard, non‑discriminatory personnel policies that may be applied and administered by company management in a consistent and uniform fashion, thereby minimizing the risk of both groundless and deserving claims of unlawful employment discrimination.

Written employment policies and procedures also may serve to substantially reduce employee dissatisfaction and complaints by providing employees with a forum through which they can raise specific employment concerns with management in a non‑threatening, non‑adversarial context, while at the same time increasing employee productivity and eliminating from the workforce those employees who fail to conform to company expectations.

Further, an employee handbook or personnel manual may serve as a highly effective deterrent to unionization. Such a document offers an employer an excellent vehicle for communicating its philosophy toward unions, preventing the kind of favoritism in the application of employment policies that often leads to employee dissatisfaction, and giving employees a sense that a union contract simply is unnecessary because the written policies and procedures serve as an effective and satisfactory alternative.

Nonetheless, some employers are hesitant to adopt an employee handbook or personnel manual for fear that doing so potentially could jeopardize the at‑will employment status of their employees. These employers believe that publishing such a set of policies and procedures would restrict their legal ability to terminate their employees unnecessarily. Although Illinois courts recognize that an employee handbook or personnel manual can create enforceable contractual rights, a court will only infer the existence of a contract when the handbook language clearly states a promise that would allow an employee to reasonably believe an offer to enter into a contract is being made. This risk can be mitigated through the use of an effective disclaimer.

To protect against any finding that an employee handbook is an implied contract that cannot be modified, employers who adopt employee handbooks or other such policy statements should include a disclaimer – signed and dated by the employee – establishing that the terms of the handbook are not contractually binding. Ideally, the disclosure should provide that:

  • the terms of the handbook do not create a contract of employment
  • the employment relationship is and remains at‑will, subject to termination by the employer or the employee at any time and for any reason notwithstanding any provision in the handbook to the contrary
  • the employer reserves the right to modify or deviate from the handbook policies at any time and in its sole discretion
  • the employee does not in any way rely upon the provisions of the handbook in accepting or continuing employment.

By adding such a disclaimer, an Illinois employer should gain protection against an implied contractual relationship with its employees.

The range of topics an employer may choose to address in its written policies and procedures is extremely broad.  The materials presented here are intended to provide employers with some practical ideas regarding possible topics that may be included in an employee handbook or personnel manual, as well as some examples regarding how to approach these various areas. Each sample policy also contains commentary explaining why particular language is desirable or even imperative from a legal standpoint.  This commentary may prove helpful to employers in adopting policies and procedures specifically tailored to the needs of their particular businesses and workforces.

In addition, each sample policy also contains a statement as to whether that particular policy is or may be legally essential, legally desirable, or optional. These terms refer to the advisability from a legal perspective of including such a policy in the employee handbook or personnel manual.


The forms are provided for general use in your business. Most of these forms are applicable to a large number of businesses.  However, every company has different needs. Thus, employers should carefully analyze each form and customize them as appropriate.

In cases where multiple forms are provided, it is recommended that employers select the form that best suits their particular business needs.

Employment laws are ever changing. Therefore, this manual may not contain every form that is necessary for every business.

At a minimum, regardless of the policies and/or forms that an employer chooses to use or not use, employers should maintain the following materials:

  • the job titles, and qualification/experience for all interviewers
  • relevant information regarding all vacant positions, including job title, position description, former workers in that position, and job
  • location
  • job application forms and resumes
  • background check materials
  • interviewers’ notes
  • candidate selection criteria
  • employment contracts
  • performance appraisals
  • wage payment notice forms
  • signed handbook acknowledgement forms
  • work history records
  • attendance records
  • disciplinary notices
  • W-4 forms
  • insurance forms
  • exit interview forms
  • I-9 forms – these forms are best kept in a separate file and not kept in an employee’s personnel file
  • records containing medical information and documents regarding any requests for reasonable accommodation – these documents should be kept in a separate medical file and not in the employee’s personnel file.

Tools for employers

Many policies and forms in this book are classified to help employers determine what is legally essential, legally desirable, and optional.

Legally essential

If a particular policy is denoted as legally essential, then it is virtually imperative to include such a provision. Few policies are so identified, but failure to include such policies may have adverse legal consequences for the employer.  

Legally desirable

If a policy is identified as legally desirable, then its inclusion may provide important legal benefits to the employer. Those benefits are described in the commentary accompanying each sample policy.  


If a policy is labeled as optional, then the policy may be included or omitted without significant legal ramifications. It should be noted, however, that even when a particular policy is identified as optional, it always is advisable to include the policy in writing, if the employer elects to have a policy at all.