February 1, 2023
Regardless of the size of your company or the industry in which you operate, maintaining an up-to-date employee handbook can help your business operate smoothly. Handbooks are important guides about company culture, benefits, and workplace expectations. Well-written handbooks also provide a defense against harassment, discrimination or unfair treatment claims by outlining company policies consistent with employment laws. To help guide you on the path to improving handbooks, consider including these four sections:
1. Company Mission, History and Values:
Handbooks don’t need to be generic, formal documents. In fact, handbooks that lack a personal touch or company-specific information may end up sending the wrong message to your workers. Consider personalizing your handbook with a welcome message, mission statement, and facts about the company that show why it is a great place to work. Including a welcome message at the onset of the handbook can ease employees into the document and make them feel valued. Mission statements may also help the handbook feel unique by highlighting goals of the business or by including an expression of the company’s intent to have a positive impact in the community.
2. Employee Benefits:
The benefits section may be the portion of the handbook that employees care about most. This section covers topics including health insurance, leaves of absence, paid time off, and more. When addressing the topic of leave, it is important to consider state and federal laws that may apply to your company. For example, some states have specific laws for military leave, jury duty, bereavement, or bone marrow donor leave. Employers with more than 50 employees may be subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as well. Mentioning your company’s compliance with these laws is important and can help your employees understand how and when they can take time away from work. Handbooks should mention how PTO is accrued and what happens with that time at the end of the year or upon termination of employment. Clear rules related to employee benefits can minimize the chance that employees abuse the policies and promotes trust.
3. Compliance with Employment Laws:
Highlighting your company’s conformity with equal employment opportunity laws, anti-harassment policies, immigration laws and rules for reasonable accommodation are critical. These laws may protect the company from future charges of discrimination and indicate to employees that the business operates in an ethical, legal manner. Also, be aware of state-specific laws applicable to states in which your employees are working in-person or teleworking.
4. Employee Acknowledgment:
The final page should always be the same. The employee acknowledgment is a brief statement, signed by the employee, which recognizes that the employee has received, read and agreed to comply with the information contained in the handbook. This signed acknowledgment does not create a binding agreement on either the employee or the employer. Instead, this final page merely affirms that the employee understands the company’s rules and procedures. The signed acknowledgment page should be kept in an employee’s personnel file for future reference and can be used if an employee says they were unaware of any company policy.
Handbooks are living documents that should be updated regularly, especially as laws evolve and company policies and practices change. If you need help drafting or updating your handbook, reach out to one of our experienced employment lawyers at RKW Law Group.
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