The employee handbook is the single most important document an employer can provide to employees to improve communication, set expectations and help ensure compliance. An effective handbook establishes clear understanding of the organizational culture, the role of leadership and highlights significant company policy.
While there are no legal requirements to publish an employee handbook, it can save the employer time and money by avoiding legal issues and compliance gaps. This one document can help ensure compliance with federal, state and local laws, as well as protect the company from claims or lawsuits. The handbook should be simple, easy to read, appropriate for your specific business and outline key policies that impact your employees.
At a minimum, the handbook should highlight the basic standards of your organization, including:
- Information regarding the company’s mission statement and core values
- Mandated notices including equal employment opportunity, drug/alcohol policy, code of conduct and workplace safety and security
- Employee receipt/acknowledgement that they received the handbook
Additionally, other necessary guidelines may be included such as:
- Attendance/absence policy
- Leave policies
- Communication policy (cell phones, internet usage)
- Compensation and benefits policies
While the handbook should not be so specific that it becomes unrealistic, or an inaccurate representation of what actually occurs at the workplace, it should be updated annually to address changes in legislation or key aspects of the organization. Keep in mind, even small changes in federal, state or local laws can prompt a revision to policies within the handbook.
Are you wondering if it is time to update your employee handbook? Here are 4 points to determine if your handbook needs updating:
1. Any Changes to Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws:
- Does your handbook reflect the changes in laws regarding discrimination against employees and job applicants due to sexual orientation, gender and race? Does it include language protecting individuals from retaliation if they file harassment claims?
- Reasonable accommodation regulations change annually. Does your language include new requirements for assaulted individuals, abuse victims or pregnant and/or breastfeeding women?
- Policies regarding pay transparency may also need to be updated, based on laws allowing employees to discuss compensation with one another.
- Is your sexual harassment policy updated and shared yearly? In the wake of the #MeToo Movement, organizations need to make specific updates to their policies. While Michigan has not changed their state law, this will be an area to watch as other states change their state mandates (New York, California).
- Organizations will also need to keep their eye on ‘ban the box’ laws, as State of Michigan employees are the only covered applicants at this time.
2. E-Cigarettes and Legal Marijuana
- As more non-tobacco items become available, employers may have to update their no smoking policy to include items such as e-cigarettes and other devices.
- Does your organization need to re-word your drug policy based on legalized marijuana? While companies can still prohibit drug usage, the specific wording within the handbook may need to change to ensure legality and accuracy.
3. Weapons Policy
- As mass shootings become more common, organizations should consider creating/updating the language in the current weapons policy to reflect weapons stored in employees' cars within employer parking lots, concealed weapons and weapon security.
- Does your organization also address evacuation plans for such events? What is the emergency plan for your company?
4. Flexible Workplace Initiatives
- Any remote work options, or flexible scheduling, should be outlined in the employee handbook with accurate information and guidelines.
With an uptick of independent contractors, many organizations are specifically defining the difference between employees and contractors (Lesonsky, 2018).
An employee handbook should be reviewed at least annually to ensure it is up to date with local, state and federal laws.
Should you need assistance updating your employee handbook, or assistance with any other HR needs, please contact
Sage Solutions Group at 734-855-7189 or visit our website at www.sagesolutionsgroup.com.
Lesonsky, R. (2018). Smallbiztrends. Retrieved from https://smallbiztrends.com/2018/04/employee-handbook-updates.html