Make Your Employee Handbook An Indispensable Human Resources Tool
by Liz Strikwerda
A good employee handbook is essential for smooth business operations. Especially for successful employee relations. It should be the go-to authority for policies and expectations. But it can only help your company if it’s carefully planned, written, and updated. Once you have created a handbook, you can put it to work.
A strong employee handbook will:
· Express company policies
· Prevent compliance problems
· Establish expectations for employees
· Improve onboarding and training
· Help employees to be successful and engaged
· Help Human Resources be more effective
· Promote workforce unity
· Reinforce your corporate values
What Do I Need For An Employee Handbook?
Well, pretty much everything. It’s a user’s manual for employees, managers, and executives. Because it should be all-encompassing, few companies get it right the first time. Are you a new business owner starting from scratch? Expect to make several drafts. Take your time to get it right. Workforce management software can help. We address that below.
Most large companies cover the following:
· Company policies
· Terms of employment
· Payroll deductions
· Business travel
· Conflict of interest
· Intellectual property
· Code of conduct
· Dress code
· Mobile devices
· Social Media
An employee handbook should be a living document. It should evolve with your company. This doesn’t only apply to the compliance issues. As your company grows and diversifies, the handbook should reflect the changes.
Review it frequently. Then update it as required. If a new employment law is passed, make it a priority.
Proactive updates prevent problems. Businesses that created a social media policy 15 years ago saved a lot of hassle. Companies that trained their hiring managers on illegal interview questions avoided lawsuits. Frequent handbook review will safeguard you in the case of an employee legal challenge.
The Challenge of Keeping Handbooks Up-To-Date
A common problem with handbooks is keeping them up-to-date. Especially for small companies and start-ups. You don’t always have time to work out the nitty-gritty that is required. It has notoriously been considered a dreaded task. Some HR teams have a running joke about managing the handbook. No one is eager to take ownership and the buck gets passed around and around.
Editing and printing expenses can be crippling for tight budgets. This is unfortunate because small businesses need a good handbook as much as larger organizations.
Problems With Outdated Employee Handbooks
An outdated handbook can do more harm than good. Especially if the policies aren’t legally compliant anymore. An incomplete handbook causes confusion. It can be particularly problematic for new hires. What if a new employee assumes health benefits start immediately? Suppose your company has a 60-day waiting period. The employee ends their previous coverage before the new benefits become effective. Then the worker has a major medical expense. You are going to have an angry employee with a mountain of medical bills. That’s no way to begin a new job. Here is a better scenario: The handbook clearly explains the waiting period. New hires are required to read the handbook. Each provides a signature acknowledging that they read it, agree to it, and understand that they will be bound by it.
Multiple Handbook Versions
If you employ workers in multiple states, you may need a separate compliance section for each state. Talk to your business attorney or state Department of Labor. If you are based in California, you may need a separate section for workers in specific cities. California has new anti-harassment training regulations for 2019 as well.
Your Handbook Represents Your Business
When content is outdated, it reflects poorly on your company. Pretty soon, everyone ignores it. Employees have to ask their manager or the HR staff every time they have a question. Incorrect information and informal policies spread through the workforce.
If you are a small business owner or HR manager, make your handbook ahead-of-the-curve.
Issues You May Need To Add Or Update
Here are some issues that may affect your business. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list.
Flexible Work Schedules
Flexible scheduling and telecommuting may influence your policies. If you have recently offered these to your employees, it’s time to review your handbook.
Every company is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act. As your business grows, you have more liability. If you’ve just hired your 15th or 20th employee, it’s time to review. Talk to your employment counsel to make sure you are compliant.
Have you recently hired seasonal workers or temps? How about independent contractors or telecommuters? You may need new policies for these classifications.
Several state laws that regulate leave have changed. Make sure your policy helps you adhere to labor laws.
Equal Employment Opportunity
In 2018, many states and cities added or modified EEO laws.
Has your state recently legalized recreational or medical marijuana? It’s time to figure out how you want to address that. (Good luck…)
Employer retaliation is the most common issue at stake in employer legal challenges. Make sure you outline prohibited manager behavior in your handbook. Protect yourself from fines and sanctions.
HR Portals Have Employee Handbook Tools
IPP's Online HR provides attorney written and reviewed templates that will walk you through the process and let you create your handbook within minutes! For most companies, it doesn't make sense to issue physical employee handbooks due to the cost of printing and re-printing when you need to make changes to the handbook.
You can post your finished employee handbook to HUB, IPP's Online Employee Self -Service portal to let your staff read and agree to it.
Updating your handbook is just as quick and easy to do as creating your first draft and after posting the update into HUB, the system can notify your employees about the update so they can read and sign the new handbook.