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
  • Compensation/benefits
  • Terms of employment
  • Payroll deductions
  • Discipline
  • Leave
  • Business travel
  • Overtime
  • Nondiscrimination
  • Conflict of interest
  • Intellectual property
  • Retaliation
  • Telecommuting
  • Code of conduct
  • Attendance
  • Ethics
  • Dress code
  • Safety
  • Mobile devices
  • Social Media
  • Cannabis

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.

Business Size

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.

Employee Classifications

Have you recently hired seasonal workers or temps? How about independent contractors or telecommuters? You may need new policies for these classifications.

Employee Leave

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.

Cannabis Laws

Has your state recently legalized recreational or medical marijuana? It’s time to figure out how you want to address that. (Good luck…)

Retaliation Protections

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

A self-service HR portal can help you create and manage your handbook. It also provides the best way for employees to read and agree to it. HR portals are web-based, so employees can read the handbook on any mobile device. Electronic handbook management has many advantages for employers and employees. Plus, it has a smaller carbon footprint.

New hires can take all the time they need to read it before their first day. With e-sign, your HR manager can verify receipt and acceptance. When there is an update, you notify everyone on the portal main dashboard. They can link to the handbook and read and sign for the changes right after clocking in.

For most companies, it doesn’t make sense to issue physical employee handbooks. It’s expensive to print and re-print when you need to make changes. Workplace laws are dynamic. Many companies need to update their handbook before it even gets back from the printer!

SwipeClock WorkforceHUB

WorkforceHUB is a cloud-based, unified HR solution that includes online document management. With WorkforceHUB, your employee handbook is managed in the cloud. This provides a way for you to keep your handbook up-to-date in real time.

By Liz Strikwerda