Employee Handbook: When to Update and What to Include

employee handbooks

It is that time of year again! Your employee handbook should be reviewed and updated annually in order to stay in compliance with the ever-changing legal landscape. As your company grows and matures, so must your policies. 

Areas to Consider

  • Growth. If your employee headcount has grown, you may need to include new policies to address COBRA, Family Medical Leave or benefit eligibility. 
  • At-Will Employment. Be specific about “employment at will”. Make sure it is clear that the handbook is not a contract and the company is not guaranteeing anything.
  • Unlawful Language. Remove language that is unlawful. For example, employees have a right to discuss and voice complaints regarding working conditions, including pay. Employees may not be prevented from or disciplined for discussing their salaries with other employees. Companies may only express that they prefer employees do not discuss salaries with other employees.
  • Employee Categories. Update your employee categories. Make sure your employees understand the difference between Exempt and Non-Exempt classifications. Will your company be in compliance with the new Fair Labor Standards Act’s Final Overtime Rule that goes into effect January 1, 2020? The rule requires employers to adjust exempt employee salaries to meet the minimum salary threshold and to meet job duties requirements as determined by the FLSA.   
  • Legal Compliance. Review laws regarding breaks and meals, non-exempt overtime, jury duty, paid leave and distribution of final paychecks to make sure your company is in compliance. 
  • Attendance. Ensure you have specific policies regarding employee notification procedures if an employee is going to be unexpectedly late or absent. Include a clear definition of Job Abandonment – categorizing it as voluntary resignation.
  • Employee Acknowledgement Form. It is a good idea to require your employees to sign an Employee Acknowledgement Form stating that they received and understood the policies outlined in the employee handbook. Signed employee acknowledgement forms should be retained in each employee’s file. 

A comprehensive, well-written employee handbook serves as a foundation of workplace procedures. It can be a defense against frivolous lawsuits and a compelling public relations tool.

Benefits of an Employee Handbook

  • A Communication Tool. An employee handbook serves as a communication tool for new hires and existing employees regarding employment policies and practices. It also promotes employee benefit plans.
  • Maintains Consistency. It helps guarantee consistent treatment of various workplace issues.
  • Describes Critical Policies. A handbook informs employees about critical policies and procedures regarding:
    • Equal Employment Opportunity
    • Harassment
    • Leaves of absence
    • Drug, alcohol and tobacco use
    • Dress code
    • Cell phone and camera use
    • Email and Internet use
    • Weapons
    • Compensation philosophy
    • Performance expectations
    • Business ethics
    • Rules of conduct
    • Disciplinary procedures.
  • Increases Productivity. It gives supervisors a handy reference for and reduces time spent responding to questions about policies and procedures.
  • Legal Protection. It provides deterrents to and defenses in litigation of workplace disputes.
  • Easy Access. It can be made available on-line for easy employee access. An online employee handbook is also easy to update and can cover multiple states. 

Premier HR Solutions can develop your employee handbook or bring your existing handbook up to date to meet your organization’s unique needs and objectives. Schedule a free consultation with one of our HR Advisors today!