As we’ve learned throughout our employee handbook implementation series, the handbook is a fantastic opportunity to both protect your company, and introduce new employees to your culture. It’s also a great opportunity to make a great many mistakes. So, we’d like to take you through some employee handbook best practices for your company.
The very best practice, of course, is to have your employee handbook reviewed by an attorney or professional Human Resources firm. ConnectedHR assists clients who are instituting handbooks for the first time, as well as updating existing material.
In this article, we’ll be discussing four employee handbook best practices and actionable step you can take to protect yourself and your employees.
Stay On Top Of Legal Compliance
More than anything else, your handbook needs to be legally relevant. Every company needs to adhere to anti-discrimination, equal opportunity, at-will work laws, and anything else required by local and state governments.
- Anti-Discrimination policies include those regarding race, gender, disabilities, and age. It is illegal to base hiring, firing, pay and advancement on any of these qualities.
- Equal Opportunity policies include those referring to wage and hiring practice involving those covered by anti-discrimination policies, as well as people of differing national origin, immigrants, and veterans.
- At-Will employment is the condition between employers and employees allowing either to terminate the working relationship at any time, provided the adequate and legal reason is given by the employer. Every state except Montana has At-Will employment.
Many handbooks will outline these, reaffirm your commitment to uphold them, and provide access to more elaborative resources. The US Department of Labor has an in-depth section pertaining to these and other requirements.
Don’t Go Crazy With Company Policies
Employees from every industry have a story about an absurd or overbearing company policy. These range from official languages, withholding pay, social media restrictions, and lots more. Policies like these are just ridiculous, they’re often illegal.
- Company policies requiring that employees speak English only while at work are becoming increasingly common across the US. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has ruled that this runs afoul of anti-discrimination laws unless the employer can show it’s vital to day-to-day business.
- Many companies have rules regarding social media use but try not to take it too far. Any policies limiting free speech or expression, or requires certain messages to be disseminated by employees, violates the National Labor Rights Act of 1935.
- Withholding pay for any reason is illegal in every state. Even if a company has rules about overtime, or an employee punches in early, or out late, or said employee is responsible for damaging company property, an employer may not withhold wages. This is commonly seen in the retail and food service industries, where companies attempt to penalize cashiers whose drawers are short at the end of their shift.
Essentially, a policy is illegal when it impinges on employee rights. The National Labor Relations Board investigates situations where free speech is involved, which is the majority of cases.
Have Employees Sign the Handbook
This one’s easy. After considering the extremely important federal regulations above, you want to ensure that your employees have as well. Also, having your employees submit signed certificates agreeing with the content proves that they received the employee handbook, protecting you from many potential lawsuits.
Less is More
Be concise. Summarize benefits whose full descriptions can be found in a separate packet. Provide a general outline of the most important policies and then provide a URL or printed document that goes into further detail. If your handbook is too thick, it won’t be read and will very difficult to update and edit. Going into too much detail on things like insurance plans means that it will need to be changed every time the company plans slightly shift every year. Contact forms are better as PDFs on the company server, rather than a quickly obsolete directory at the back of your handbook. Remember, it’s a handbook, not a phonebook.
Keep Your Employee Handbook Current
Regardless of how many years you’ve had your handbook, schedule an annual review of the material. Look at how the industry has changed. Look at what federal and state laws have been changed or introduced. Have your in-house attorney, or a hired attorney, check the legality of each policy.