Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Employee Handbooks - What to Include & Common Pitfalls

Allison Carter, a colleague of mine, wrote this article about Employee Handbooks.

Why are Employee Handbooks Important?

An employee handbook serves as an important document that not only informs employees of Company policies and expectations but also provides the Company with protection against potential lawsuits and complaints.  Well-written handbooks can minimize both litigation and liability.  As your company changes, so do the federal, state, and local laws, therefore so should your handbook.   Maintaining and updating your handbook is something that should be tended to on a regular basis. 

Important Policies to Include

Below are the top policies to update and/or add to your Company handbook for 2014:

·      At-Will Statement
·      Equal Employment Opportunity Policy
·      Anti-Harassment & Discrimination Policy along with a Complaint Procedure
·      Non-Violence in the Workplace Policy
·      Progressive Discipline Policy
·      Internet, E-mail, & Computer Use Policy
·      Social Media Policy
·      FMLA (if applicable) and other Leave & Time Off Policies
·      Overtime & Attendance Policies
·      Drug & Alcohol Abuse Policy
·      Disclaimer stating that the employee handbook is not intended to create a contract. 

The last pages of your handbook should contain an “At-Will Employment Agreement and Acknowledgement of Receipt of Employee Handbook” page.  Have the employee and their manager/human resources sign and date.

Common Pitfalls

Below are the most common mistakes that employers make when it comes to employee handbooks:

1.     Using a template or generic handbook -Don’t take the risk by using a “one size fits all” approach as form handbooks may include items that aren’t relevant and more importantly may miss important items that you need to address.
2.     Offering too much information-Employers cannot account for every situation that might occur.  Being more vague allows flexibility while dealing with unforeseen circumstances and situations.
3.    Including policies that conflict with other policies & company documents
4.    Not including a disclaimer and/or employment at-will statement-This keeps the handbook from acting as a contract with an employee
5.    Including items that conflict with federal, state & local laws-Any statements that contradict with federal, state, and local laws are invalid and also can result in the company losing credibility  
6.    Failing to update the handbook on a consistent basis-Companies, laws and guidelines are ever changing and your handbook need to change right along with them to avoid liability & litigation. 

Not sure if your handbook is up to par?  Have it reviewed by an expert in the field to ensure that you have addressed important issues to reduce confusion for your employees, contradiction in policy, and risk of litigation within your organization.

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