Among its many functions, this manual is intended to introduce employees to the organization’s mission and culture, communicate key policies, relay expectations, ensure compliance with federal and state laws, and much more. For an employer, the benefits of having an employee handbook can range from ensuring a harmonious workplace to protecting the company from legal trouble. There’s little doubt that this reference tool is mission critical for most businesses, particularly larger entities. The key is to ensure that it’s current, tailored to your firm, and error-free. Otherwise, your employee handbook could actually be detrimental to your organization.
Common pitfalls to watch for include:
- Regulatory changes affect your employment policies. Employment laws are always evolving at the state and federal level, and courts’ interpretations of older laws change frequently, as well. Employers in states where laws have been updated or added need to make sure that their handbooks are legally compliant. Employee handbooks must also include any policies that are required under state, federal, and even local law. Having an employee handbook that’s out-of-date can create a number of liabilities, especially if written policies are contradictory to current employment laws. It’s well worth the time and effort to revisit your handbook annually before any new laws go into effect.
- Your handbook doesn’t reflect your actual business practices. When it comes to your employee handbook, a boilerplate approach won’t cut it. This important manual should directly reflect how your company actually operates, its culture, and its expectations. As such, avoid adopting a cookie-cutter handbook from a template or that of another company. Reviewing templates and handbooks of similar businesses when drafting yours can be helpful, but ultimately, your firm is unique and your handbook should be specifically tailored to your organization’s policies and actual practices.
- Internal policy changes aren’t recorded. Another potential problem arises when the handbook isn’t updated to conform to new rules or procedures. Employees could claim that they relied on the written policies in the handbook and weren’t aware of the new or different rules.
Put it to effective use.
Once you’ve prepared an accurate, current employee handbook for your business, there are a few more important final steps to take:
- Attorney review: Have your attorney review the handbook for conflicting or confusing language, and for legal issues.
- Communication and distribution: Your handbook shouldn’t be just handed out to new employees and then kept on a shelf collecting dust. Each time there is a revision, you should ensure that all employees have received an updated copy and everyone should sign a form indicating their receipt. In other words, make sure there’s no way an employee can plead ignorance of the policies and procedures in the manual.
- Make regular updates: Listen to your employees, peers, HR staff, and lawyers throughout the year. Our world is continuously changing so it’s important to make sure your manual keeps pace with the trends and times. Consider reviewing it at least once a year and making material updates when needed. Be sure to also update policies that have evolved and consider other changes to address issues that have arisen since the handbook was last published.
They say anything that’s worth doing is worth doing properly.
That couldn’t be more true than in the case of your company’s employee handbook. An incomplete or incorrect handbook is far more than just a nuisance. If not drafted correctly and kept current, it can actually lead you down the very path you’re seeking to avoid: the one that goes straight to the courthouse.
The seasoned professionals at The HR Team can review your existing handbook, guide you in drafting one for your company, or simply answer any questions you may have about particular policies. For more information, please contact us.
About The HR Team: Founded in 1996, The HR Team is a Maryland-based human resources outsourcing firm committed to developing strategic, customized solutions that respond to the unique needs and cultures of organizations of all types and sizes. Available as a one-source alternative to an in-house HR department or on an à la carte project basis, the company’s flexible service models address the full spectrum of HR needs that many organizations struggle to address. The HR Team helps clients achieve their highest level of success by providing value-driven human resources services that leave them time to focus on what they do best: directing business growth and profitability. Headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, the firm serves all of Maryland, Washington, DC, and Virginia. To learn more about The HR Team, call 410.381.9700 or visit https://www.thehrteam.com/.