It is probably safe to say that most employers have created some form of an employee handbook; however, just because your organization has one, that doesn’t mean it is functional.
An outdated or poorly written handbook could harm your organization by misleading employees or sending mixed messages about your human resources (HR) policies. That is why you must make sure yours is regularly reviewed and revised.
Among the primary reasons organizations invest in employee handbooks is protection from lawsuits. In today’s litigious environment, it is best to prepare for the worst. Clearly written HR policies can strengthen your defense if an employee sues. Do not wait to test this theory in court — ask your attorney to review the legal soundness of your handbook and make all recommended changes.
Why is this so important? A manager without a legally sound employee handbook is a lot like a coach without a rulebook. You cannot expect your managers or team members to play by the rules if they do not know exactly what they are. A comprehensive handbook will ensure that all employees know the game before they hit the field.
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Employee handbooks also can communicate the total value of working for your organization. Employees sometimes do not appreciate all the benefits their employer offers. Perhaps this is because they — and maybe even some managers — do not know about them.
Your handbook should express that you care about employees’ welfare and show how you go about providing that support. To do so, identify and explain all the benefits you provide. Do not stop with the obvious discussions of your health care and retirement plans. Describe your leave policies, any work schedule flexibility you offer, and fringe benefits (such as life insurance, educational assistance, or fitness center membership).
One word of caution: When looking to update their handbooks, some employers acquire a “best in class” example from another employer and try to adopt it as their own. Doing so generally is not a good idea. That other handbook’s tone may be inappropriate or at least inconsistent with your industry or organizational culture.
Similarly, be careful about downloading handbook templates from the Internet. Chances are you will have no idea who wrote the original, let alone if it follows current laws and regulations.
In addition, a “boilerplate” employee handbook may be based on one state’s laws, leaving it unsuitable for employers outside that state or that operate in several states. Distributing a handbook that does not apply to the state(s) in which you operate can lead to administrative — or, worse, legal — nightmares.
If your employee handbook has not been updated in several years, now is a good time to do so. A thorough update may not only prevent confusion, but also allow you to reintroduce yourself to your employees and show off why you are a great employer.
Questions? Our firm can provide further information.