Best Practices for an Up-To-Date Employee Handbook
Whether you are a small family-owned business or a large firm, it is very important to have an employee handbook. The purpose of a well-written handbook is to provide detailed information on your company policies, procedures, working conditions and expectations in the workplace. An employee handbook also needs to be updated on a regular basis, usually annually, to comply with all the changing laws and regulations, as well as to respond to changes in today’s work environment.
Why is it so important to have an Employee Handbook?
- The handbook confirms and defines the employment relationship as an at-will relationship. In an at-will relationship, the employer retains the right to make employment decisions at any time, with or without notice and for any reason, as long as it is not an unlawful reason.
- It provides information to employees about the company culture, its mission and its values. This section of the handbook helps encourage a sense of pride and understanding of the corporate culture.
- It gives employees information on company objectives and best practices.
- It provides employees with a clear understanding of their responsibilities, their behavior and conduct.
- It ensures that there is a consistent message regarding company policies on such issues as compensation, including frequency of pay and overtime.
- It outlines all the company’s policies regarding benefits, including sick pay, vacations, PTO, 401(k), medical and ancillary insurance, paid leave, etc.
- The handbook should also cover policies that are in compliance with federal and state workplace laws and regulations, such as Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans for Disabilities Act.
- It also protects the employer against any personnel issues, to be sure that issues are handled in a fair and consistent manner.
- It gives the employees information about their rights, should there be any issues they encounter in the workplace, such as discrimination, harassment, as well as discipline policies and procedures. Is there a formal complaint process in place?
All employers should also require employees to sign an acknowledgement form, stating they have received a copy of the handbook (either a paper copy or electronically) and that they will familiarize themselves with the handbook.
Key Updates for an Employee Handbook
Here are some additional considerations that should be included in an Employee Handbook, in order for it to be relevant and effective.
- Does your handbook have a policy that prohibits employees from revealing and discussing confidential business information, especially to people outside the organization?
- Does your handbook have a policy on social media and data privacy, since so many of us do work-related tasks on our smartphones and tablets? Or even a policy on prohibiting the use of a work computer for personal use?
- Does your handbook include a policy on working remotely, including security requirements?
- Does your handbook include a section on reasonable accommodations for certain circumstances, such as physical health conditions or religious beliefs?
- Does your handbook provide details on pay related issues, such as overtime pay and payout of unused vacation time?
- Does your company operate in multiple states and do you include all the state specific employment laws for those states, in addition to compliance with all federal laws?
- Does your handbook contain a smoking policy that covers the use of e-cigarettes and even medical marijuana?
- Does your handbook include detailed sections on paid and unpaid leave for a wide range of reasons?
- Does your handbook include a section on disaster preparedness? Does it include your organization’s emergency plans and a communications plan for employees to stay informed? Is there a plan in place for employees to work remotely in the case of an emergency?
An employee handbook is a living document that is unique to every organization and it certainly needs to be reviewed on an annual basis. There are many resources available to help you with creating a handbook, as well as updating your current handbook. It even may be beneficial to consult an attorney when you are finalizing your employee handbook. If you have questions or need more information or additional resources, please feel free to contact Nancy Damato, RDA Benefit Services, LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-693-0772.