Employee Handbooks are one of the most common tools an employer possesses, yet, it is also one of the most undervalued business tools. Unfortunately, many employers miss the mark on the purpose of an Employee Handbook because of a one-size-fits-all approach, not making appropriate revisions, or even properly distributing the book. The content, how it is used, and where it is accessed are all equally important.
Content. The internet is a powerful tool, but do not be fooled by everything you read. The internet has generated an idea that businesses can just download a handbook and call it a day. I am here to say it is not that easy, provided you want an instrument that will work for you and not against you. There are many websites that offer handbook building solutions and while these can be a great starting point, it is not the end all be all. Every organization is different and a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. You must customize the handbook so it makes sense to your organization (e.g., take into consideration your industry, state/local laws, your current practices and culture, etc.). For example, if you have nine employees you will not need a federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy; however, state law may apply. You do not want a handbook full of policies (or legalese) that do not apply to your organization. This would open your organization up to trouble. The employee handbook, when done correctly, will serve as an employer’s bible providing consistency in the business practice application. It is a tool, that when used the right way, can help an employer and employee achieve the mission of the organization. It sets forth the conditions of employment and the expectations for all parties.
Once your organization has built a handbook, it should be revised at least bi-annually. Employment and labor law is ever changing and you want to ensure that policies and procedures accurately reflect such changes. I know that the recommended frequency may be unwelcomed, but I promise you will be thankful should an incident occurs, your Employee Handbook will be accurate; and up-to-date to support your actions in the court room. A helpful tip to making that annual revision go smoother: make notations throughout the year on policies that need revisions; however, policies that are affected by law should be revised and distributed immediately.
Distributing handbooks can be done via paper or electronic. Whichever method you choose, make sure to obtain a signed Employee Handbook Acknowledgement form. I know, I know, most employees do not even read the handbook, but that’s neither here nor there. Employees not reading the handbook does not make the policies void. Now, you as the employer should be consistent in your practices and train your staff. This will cut down on the “I didn’t know” claims.
As always, HRinMotion, LLC is here to assist you with your handbook needs. Give us a call at 240-838-7142 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation. It is always a pleasure serving you and your organization.
Kristy Brown, MSHRM, SHRM-CP
Chief HR Compliance Officer