A well-researched and properly written employee handbook can be an invaluable tool for businesses. It conveys expectations for employees and provides important legal guardrails and guidelines for employers. In addition, by clearly defining policies and procedures, a good handbook ensures that staff at all levels – from new hires to management – are accountable for their actions and decisions.
Perhaps more importantly, an employee handbook is a handy resource for supervisors – minimizing the need for day-to-day HR contact. It offers reminders about company policy while also outlining its mission, culture, and values in an easy-to-digest and readily accessible way.
A LIVING DOCUMENT
That said, an employee handbook is only as valuable as its accuracy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the contents of an employee handbook to become outdated or ambiguous – two factors that can lead to the risk of compliance violations.
It’s essential to review and update your employee handbooks regularly – incorporating any changes to employment laws, assessing shifts in company policies and procedures, and reflecting revisions of employee benefits.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR HANDBOOK INCLUDE?
While there’s no standardized format for employee handbooks, there are a few basic sections you should incorporate:
- Company profile: Outline your mission, vision statement, goals, and company culture.
- Employee orientation: Familiarize new hires with the company and refresh existing employees.
- Equal Employment Opportunity policies: Describe your company’s policy toward ensuring equal opportunities across all groups.
- Benefits: Outline your company’s policies regarding health insurance, paid time off, retirement, etc.
- Codes of conduct: Expected behavior toward others, including harassment policies, anti-discrimination, social media use, technology use, and so on.
- Disciplinary policies: How your company responds to conduct violations or other disciplinary issues – up to and including termination procedures.
- Performance reviews: Employees need to understand how and when management will assess their performance.
- Acknowledgment of receipt: To ensure compliance, employees should submit a physical or digital signature to verify that they’ve received and understand the handbook.
IMPORTANCE OF UPDATES
It’s important to review your handbook annually to identify any necessary changes. These revisions could be based on updates to company policies, procedures, organizational structure, or any number of issues such as:
- Changing laws – Local, state, and federal rules are updated frequently on such issues as equal employment, minimum wage, family leave laws, gender pay gaps, overtime regulations, and more. It’s your responsibility to ensure your company complies with all applicable laws.
- Changes in your organization – If your company has made any significant updates or changes – such as rebranding or reorganizing – you should make the relevant changes to your employee handbook.
- Technological changes – Every year, the rate of technological advancement seems to increase. As a result, data privacy, social media, and smartphone usage are constantly evolving topics that require regular attention.
THE ROLE OF COVID-19
The ongoing pandemic has brought to light the importance of maintaining updated employee handbooks. From telework to vaccination policies, there have been multiple impacts on guidelines and benefits – all of which should be addressed in your handbook. As new developments continue to unfold, you may need to adapt your policies even further, but a few areas of consideration include:
- Workplace safety – Covid may not be going anywhere anytime soon. So, it may be time to address pandemic-related safety policies in your employee handbook. Having documented employee policies will help establish and reinforce expectations – from mask mandates and social distancing protocols to potential quarantine scenarios.
- Attendance – With remote and hybrid work increasingly the norm for many industries, you may need to update your attendance policies. Your employee handbook should clearly outline expectations so that employees understand what’s expected of them.
- Time off – Given the high percentage of people working from home, old ideas regarding vacation days, sick days, and paid time off are quickly becoming outdated. Employers need to outline their policies regarding time away from work to help employees avoid burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
IT’S UP TO YOU
Remaining up to date with employment legislation and maintaining an accurate employee handbook are only parts of the equation. You must also clearly communicate any changes or policy updates to your employees.
To ensure you are compliant with all requirements ad are sharing the information most effectively, it can help to talk to an HR professional – like the experts at Health & Benefits Partners.
Whether you’re updating your employee handbook or starting from scratch, we’ll help make sure your business is covered. Reach out to our qualified team today.