Sometimes in business, and especially when dealing with Human Resources, the difference between the almost right word and the right word can mean a lawsuit or employment case. Something as small as a miscommunication or misunderstanding can cause you a plethora of issues.
Don’t have an employee handbook? Then you should get one – now!
Have an employee handbook? Then make sure it clearly states your policies and procedures, and update it every year. Why? Let’s review:
Let’s examine why you need a handbook in the first place, and why you need it as soon as you hire your first employee. The primary, and most vital, reason is basic - legal protection. An employee handbook often protects companies from employees’ legal claims. You can compare a company handbook to having a rulebook for a sports team. It defines your company’s boundaries, gives ground rules, and explains what is and is not considered satisfactory behavior. It can detail anything from your payroll schedule and vacation policies to the federal, state, and industry regulations with which you are mandated to comply.
Have a small company? Though some federal regulations – such as Title VII and the Americans withDisabilities Act – don’t go into effect until you have 15 employees or more, you can be sued for many other issues at any size.
Once again: You can be sued no matter the size of your company!
While a handbook can’t protect you from being sued, it can provide documentation that can help protect you if you are. For example, if your handbook explains how time and attendance is documented in your internal systems (and your employees have been given and signed off that they have been given the handbook), you may be able to use that Employee Handbook Acknowledgement as documentation to help protect your company in the event of an accusation.
Another reason to have a handbook is that it lays out expectations for your employees. The handbook allows all employees to gain access to the same information, and allows employers to set forth their expectations in an understandable and consistent manner.
Things to consider when updating your handbook:
Once you have your employee handbook in place and distributed to employees with a signed acknowledgement, it’s best practice to review that document annually since laws and regulations change frequently. If you find sections that are no longer relevant or unclear, rewrite the wording to clarify or change the policy. It is highly recommended that you have your attorney or qualified individual review any substantial changes that you make in your handbook – particularly if they are indirect relation to a specific law.
Here are some items to consider when updating your handbook – especially for the 2017 year!
Assure that your handbook does not discourage employees from reporting potential legal violations to either the company or other governmental agencies.
While this is just a small list, hopefully it gives you an idea of where to focus as you either begin developing or reviewing your handbook for the year. It is extremely important for every company – at any size – to make a handbook a priority. In the long run, you will not regret the time and effort it takes to save your bottom line from an ugly lawsuit!