Does your employee handbook have a coating of dust on it? Was it last printed in 2008? If so, it’s probably time for an update. This important company asset is distributed to new employees during their onboarding and orientation, but it may be beneficial to you and your business to review it more often.

What is an employee handbook and why have one?
First things first, an employee handbook serves as a company resource for policies, procedures, and workplace culture. It’s the document that should hold most, if not all, of the answers to your employees’ questions, as well as local, state and federal business laws and legal requirements.

Secondly, your employee handbook can limit your risk for potential litigation. If an employee is unaware of a specific policy or law, or if the policy is severely outdated or not easily understood, you may run the risk of being held legally accountable for their actions.

Further, employee handbooks are meant to change along with what’s happening outside of your business. For example, COVID-19 safety guidelines and work from home procedures.

How often should an employee handbook be updated?
Great question! Experts recommend that you review your handbook every six months for outdated or irrelevant information with a plan to distribute an updated version annually. When you update your handbook may also depend on the size of your company as different rules may apply for larger companies. Keep in mind that you can make changes to your handbook at any time, but you must let your employees know about these changes. Having them officially sign off on seeing the updated handbook is best business practice.

Printing new handbooks every year for each employee will be costly, not to mention wasteful. Businesses are now leaning towards electronic versions of employee handbooks to make changes easier throughout the year as well as keeping costs down.

What should I include in my employee handbook?
Aside from state and federal workplace laws and regulations, your employee handbook serves as office protocol for your employees. They should look to this resource as a guide to how to conduct themselves while employed within your company. That being said, your employee handbook is not a one-size-fits all document and it should be tailored and specific to your business—not filled in using a template you found on the internet.

Keep in mind that your employee handbook should be detailed and easy to read and comprehend (i.e., ditch the legalese when possible). When there are details missing or something is written in a complex way, it can open the door to misinterpretation or legal loopholes.
Here are some important categories to keep in mind when reviewing your handbook:

  • Society/cultural changes (social distancing, remote work requirements)
  • Technology changes (social media use, smartphone use)
  • Workplace attire (company dress code aligned with what’s trendy)
  • Irrelevant content (remove everything that’s outdated)
  • Harassment issues (any and all information where employees can access help)
  • Company changes (location, size, change in owner, etc.)
  • Leave/PTO changes (e.g., what to do if an employee contracts COVID-19)
  • Benefit changes (allowance for remote work equipment, additional PTO, etc.)
  • State and federal law changes (e.g., drug policies on a state level)

Having an up-to-date, detailed employee handbook benefits you, your employees and your business by keeping employees informed, adhering to legal requirements, and outlining your company culture all within one document.

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