Your employee handbook should serve as a compass by which each employee can easily navigate your organization’s policies and procedures. Clearly defined employee policies are the key to good employee relations and avoiding potential liability issues. An outdated employee handbook, on the other hand, can put an organization at a major financial risk, and can also put a business and its staff at a literal risk regarding their safety if policies or procedures are incomplete or haven’t been properly updated.

If you haven’t updated your employee handbook recently, it is more than overdue. With an abundance of new legislative changes taking effect on January 1st, your employee handbook is likely out-of-date and therefore out of compliance. Below are seven crucial areas to update or add to your 2020 employee handbook.

  1. Sexual Harassment Policies.

2020 has once again brought new laws that put even more responsibility on employers to properly train employees and to address harassment claims thoroughly and consistently. When reading through your employee handbook, there should be no doubt about the types of behaviors that are considered inappropriate within your organization and there should be clear guidelines on how to and with whom to address such behaviors. Your employee handbook should also outline what the new sexual harassment training requirements are, so that new hires and current employees know when to expect to have to participate in the mandated training.

  1. Independent Contractor vs. Employee Designations.

Utilization and classification of independent contractors has become even more complicated since the latest round of new laws were passed. If your organization utilizes any independent contractors at all, the employee handbook should contain very clear policies as to how independent contractors are differentiated from employees, and those policies need to reflect current California law.

  1. Arbitration and At-Will Acknowledgement.

Arbitration and at-will acknowledgment are often addressed in the hiring process, but the employee handbook often includes its own separate arbitration and at-will acknowledgement language as well. However, more new laws have been passed that dictate how employers can approach arbitration agreements, so employers should be careful to update their arbitration policies to reflect current law.

  1. Inclusive Policies and Language.

California has laws in place to prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification. However, many employee policies still contain language or requirements that are inherently gendered. Now is a great time to review your employee handbook and revise the language and policies (i.e. dress code,) to be more gender-inclusive or gender-neutral. Taking effect on January 1st, 2020, a law was passed to be more inclusive of hairstyles in the workplace as well, so employers should check that their current hair policy is in compliance.

  1. Family, Medical and Parental Leaves. 

Pregnancy leave, leave to care for a sick or injured family member or leave due to an employee’s own illness are among the most common HR administration challenges faced by employers. State and federal leave laws, such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) contain overlapping – and in some cases, conflicting – employee rights and employer obligations regarding family leave.​ Benefits under Paid Family Leave in California will increase from six weeks to eight weeks starting on July 1, 2020, so employers should ensure they are in compliance by that date.

  1. Medical and Recreational Marijuana Policies.

Medicinal use of marijuana has been legalized in many states for a while, and more recently it has become recreational in California and many other western states. Several courts have already ruled that medical marijuana users are permitted to sue employers for discrimination after they were fired or not hired based on medicinal marijuana use. This may expand to off-the-clock recreational use as well, so employers may want to be careful in how they craft their policies surrounding marijuana usage.

  1. Remote Work Policies.

More businesses have begun to offer the option of working remotely, but this change should not be made without very clear policies in place to protect both parties. The remote work section of the employee handbook should contain information regarding eligibility, availability, responsiveness requirements, productivity measurements, equipment, tech support, physical environment, security, client confidentiality and even rightful termination policies.

Labor law is always changing and updating and keeping up with employment regulations on both a federal and state/local level can be overwhelming. Working with a professional employer organization (PEO) like Emplicity, who specializes in human resources for California employers, can help you quickly and efficiently address all of your employment and HR needs and can help ensure your handbook stays current and compliant.


About Emplicity:
Since 1995, Emplicity has provided a smarter, more secure, and integrated platform of employer services to its 300 business clients and their 8,500 employees. As a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, the California-based HR outsourcing firm simplifies the compliance, administration, and support businesses need in the areas of employee benefits, payroll, and human resources technology.

For more information about us, visit or call us at (877) 476-2339. We’d love to make your employee management more simple—and secure.

NOTICE: Emplicity provides HR advice and recommendations. Information provided by Emplicity is not intended as a substitute for employment law counsel. At no time will Emplicity have the authority or right to make decisions on behalf of its clients.

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