Does Your Employee Handbook Need an Upgrade?
Your employee handbook introduces your company's mission, vision, policies, procedures and culture to new hires while serving as a guidepost for employees and managers. It's important to upgrade the handbook to show the latest changes and known future changes in applicable labor laws and company policies.
When To Update Your Employee Handbook
Per HR best practices, employers should review and update their employee handbook at least annually. However, you might need to make certain updates immediately, such as those tied to legal compliance or company-mandated policies.
Updating the Handbook To Reflect Legally Required Changes
First, take a look at the items currently covered in your handbook. These might include:
- Equal employment opportunity.
- Code of conduct, including violence and harassment.
- Drug and alcohol testing.
- Work schedules.
- Equal pay.
- Timekeeping and payroll.
- Employee benefits.
- Meal and rest breaks.
- Performance reviews.
- Dress code.
- Leaves of absences.
- Health and safety.
- Technology and social media usage.
- Disciplinary procedure.
- Conflict resolution.
Next, see if there are changes in the laws impacting those items. Although legally required changes often kick in at the start of the year, they can take effect at any time.
Look for applicable changes not just in federal laws but also in state and local laws. For example, some states are adopting or amending laws on marijuana use, smoking and weapons in the workplace. Additionally, more and more states are passing laws on pay equity, minimum wage, paid sick leave, antidiscrimination, harassment and reasonable accommodation.
Note that your company's size plays a major role in which employment laws your business must adhere to. Therefore, when updating your handbook, include legally required changes stemming from your business's growth. The more employees you have, the more laws you must comply with. For instance, once you reach the 50-employee mark, you must consider the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Updating Your Handbook To Reflect Company-Mandated Changes
Many items in the employee handbook are established at the company level, such as work schedules, employee benefits, attendance, timekeeping, technology usage, conflict resolution and dress code. If you've made changes to these policies, you'll need to update your handbook accordingly.
For example, if you allow employees to work overtime, state in the handbook what happens when they work overtime without permission from their manager. If you switched from a punch-clock timekeeping system to a web-based platform, update the handbook to show the new timekeeping policy. If you no longer offer a specific employee benefit that's listed in the handbook, remove it promptly.
Don't forget to address technology and cybersecurity, as failure to inform employees of security risks can be costly, both financially and operationally.