Spring is the Time to Draft or Update Your Employee Handbook
March 20, 2023
Spring is the season of renewal, and employers should prepare for this time of growth by addressing their employee handbook. Regardless of your industry, business size, or the number of individuals you employ, now is the time to create a new employee handbook or update the one you have. This constantly evolving document is an essential tool for communicating your organization's unique policies and procedures to your entire staff.
If Don’t Have an Employee Handbook, Now Is the Time to Draft One
If you are an employer and you have not yet created an employee handbook for your business, you should invest the resources necessary to create a well-drafted document to protect yourself, your company, and your employees. An employee handbook provides everyone in your organization with a highly effective tool for avoiding misunderstandings and keeping everyone abreast of your company's mission and values. Ensuring your employees have easy access to your companies unique and thoughtfully prepared employee handbook can also help build a positive workplace culture.
If You Have an Employee Handbook, Now is the Time to Review It
If you have already created an employee handbook, make sure that you, your management team, and your human resources department review the information at least annually. Following the review, update where necessary, upload the new information to your intranet site, and send all employees a paper copy or a link to the updated online edition.
Customizing Your Employee Handbook to Your Business
One of the most critical components of an employee handbook is to create one that employees will read. But in addition to producing a well-drafted and well-organized document, it is also important to customize the manual to meet the unique needs of your organization. If you are an employer who needs to draft a new employment handbook, or you want to ensure that the one you have includes all the information you need to share with your employees, make sure that you consult with an experienced labor and employment attorney. An attorney can ensure that your document provides the information you need to communicate to your employees while using language that protects you and your organization.
Three Reasons Why All Companies Should Have an Employee Handbook
· Legal Compliance
While no laws require companies to create or implement the policies in an employee handbook, many state and federal laws require employers to inform employees of their legal rights within the workplace. Whether you provide paper copies of your employee handbook or upload an online version, your employee handbook is one of the best ways your organization can communicate information to all staff members.
· Conflict Mitigation
An employee handbook should outline the company's code of conduct so that all employees understand what is expected of them. It explains the importance of respect in the workplace and discusses the consequences of bad behavior. When a company clearly communicates and models its commitment to a healthy work environment, this message can encourage employees to adopt and engage in healthy behaviors and attitudes.
· Keeping Everyone on the Same Page
Employee handbooks can help new employees feel comfortable in their work environments when they understand the company's history, mission, and ethics. Understanding an organization's core values can also increase employee engagement and loyalty.
The Importance of Having a Company Handbook
· For New Employees
A well-written employee handbook can help your new employees embark on their new professional journey confidently and assuredly. For new hires, the information contained in the employee handbook is essential. After reading the manual, your new hires will better understand the organization and what is expected of them.
· For Existing Employees
For your existing staff members, the employee handbook will serve as a guide they can refer to whenever they need more information about specific workplace issues, such as paid time off, sick time policies, or the legal rights afforded to all employees per federal law.
An Employee Handbook Can Protect the Employer and the Employee
An employee handbook will allow the employer to formalize employment policies and procedures and help the employer to:
Develop consistent policies and procedures.
Streamline the onboarding process by giving new hires easy access to the information they need.
Decrease the number of employee complaints.
Reduce the risk of lawsuits, such as employees alleging you did not inform them of their legal rights.
Help employees understand the company's dress codes, vacation, and sick leave policies.
Benefits of an Employee Handbook
Employee handbooks can provide many benefits for the employer and employees. A well-written and properly organized document will:
· Set Clear Expectations
A well-crafted employee handbook creates transparency and sets clear expectations for employees and employers. By setting expectations, an employee handbook can reduce the risk of confusion and disciplinary actions often arising from misunderstandings. When challenging issues arise, your management team can refer to the employee handbook for clarity.
· Welcomes New Employees and Affirms Company Values
In addition to providing information about your company, your employee handbook also allows your organization to welcome new hires. In addition to outlining policies and procedures, your employee handbook can set the tone for affirming your company's mission, vision, and values.
What to Include in an Employee Handbook
An employee handbook should have several sections to offer a wide breadth of information:
· Introduction and Welcome Statement.
Describe your company's history, the individuals who founded it, and why they established it. Talk about why your company matters, your pride in the organization, and why your new hires should be proud to participate.
· Management Chart
A leadership chart of your organization will show everyone on your management team. When you include pictures, this will allow new hires to put faces to the names.
· Introducing the Team
Define the roles of your employees. If you have a law firm, for example, you can describe the difference between a shareholder, a partner, of counsel, and an associate. Let everyone understand the responsibilities of the HR Director, Legal Administrator, and Chief Marketing Officer. And you can also include brief job descriptions for the roles of support staff that may include paralegal, legal assistant, or legal secretary.
· Company Mission, Vision, and Values
Your employee handbook is an ideal place to include a personal statement from the CEO that reminds each employee of their critical role in the company team.
· Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Policy
Depending on the location of your company, there may be legal requirements about what to include in the anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy. Some jurisdictions also require organizations to outline an anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy. Addressing these policies may be an area where companies are wise to have a labor and employment attorney review your anti-harassment and non-discrimination policies to ensure that you comply with applicable laws and regulations.
· Code of Conduct
Your code of conduct should be designed to set clear expectations for employees and management. An organization's code of conduct is a summary that outlines a company's expectations for employee behavior while on the job. The code of conduct may, for example, include policies regarding tardiness, social media use, dress codes, or telecommuting. In some cases, a well-drafted code of conduct may also provide a legal defense if an employee alleges that the employer used unfair disciplinary action.
· Communications Policy
Given the pervasiveness of using cell phones and updating social media, employers should also consider including a comprehensive communications policy in their employee handbooks. A communication policy can include information about what is allowed or not allowed regarding social media postings and communications that involve the media.
· New Hire and Separation Procedures
An employee handbook can also be an essential part of the new employee's onboarding process. It is a useful tool for informing new hires of when and how often they are paid, whether there is a waiting period before their benefits package begins, or the requirements for 401k contributions. Issues also may arise when an employee leaves the organization. If the employee quits, is laid off, or is terminated, setting a clear policy regarding the outboarding of employees can help avoid disputes and confusion.
· Equal Opportunity Employer.
Employers can also include an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) statement.
When to Create an Employee Handbook
Employers should create an employee handbook when they have established a mission statement and clearly identified the information they want to share with their employees. A company's employee handbook should be provided to all employees and be available in print form or uploaded to the company’s intranet site. The handbook should be reviewed at least annually by your management team and the human resources department. Employees should receive notice each time it is updated and be provided with a link to its online location. New hires should receive a paper copy of the handbook by their first day and be required to submit a confirmation to HR within ten days that they have read and understood the material.
Your Employee Handbook is NOT an Employment Agreement
An employee manual is not an employment agreement, and it is not a legal contract. Employers should clarify this point by including a brief statement explaining that the handbook does not create an employment contract. Employers should also be careful to write their handbooks in a way that is easily understood and avoids the use of unnecessary legal jargon.
Customizing Your Employee Handbook to Your Business
One of the most critical components of an employee handbook, is to create a document that employees will read. But it's also essential to customize your employee handbook to meet your organization's unique needs. If you are drafting a new employment handbook, or you want to ensure that you have protected yourself by including all the information you need to share with your employees, consult an experienced labor and employment attorney.
Schedule a Free Consultation Now
Labor and employment matters arise in all types of businesses and industries. The Lynch Law Firm's team of attorneys is equipped with the resources, experience, and knowledge to help you resolve your legal matter. In addition to representing individuals and businesses in various labor and employment disputes and providing harassment prevention training modules and leadership development tools, our attorneys can also assist you with the following:
· Development of training manuals,
· Employment contracts,
· Employee handbooks,
· Performance evaluation materials,
· Drafting legal agreements to address non-disclosure, non-competition, severance, and separation issues.
The Lynch Law Firm's Clients Include:
Limited Liability Companies
If you are an employer seeking to resolve a labor and employment issue, protect yourself, your employees, and your business by contacting us at the Lynch Law Firm. Our lawyers can help you navigate the complexities of your legal matter from inception to resolution. If you have questions, contact us for help now. Please email us or call 512 298 2346.