Having clear and concise policies for employees is essential in keeping the workplace a safe and productive place. This firmly sets the expectations for employee performance and conduct to help prevent misunderstandings and resolve disputes before they can escalate. One of the most effective ways to ensure that each and every employee is aware of the company’s policies and procedures is to put it all in an employee handbook. However, while an employee handbook is a great tool for communicating important information, it can also create liability issues if not done properly. Here are the top eight employee handbook mistakes that are most commonly made by employers.
- Not regularly updating it.
Laws change quite often, and the mission – and the very nature – of your company can change as well. An employee handbook should reflect the most current employment laws, regulations and trends. Having an employee handbook that’s out-of-date can create a number of liabilities, especially if written policies are contradictory to current employment laws. At minimum, handbooks should be updated every couple of years, but it’s well worth the time and effort to revisit them each year before any new laws go into effect.
- Not being consistent.
Employee handbooks contain a lot of information, some of which is repeated throughout. Over time, as handbooks are revised and updated, it can actually create inconsistencies or even cause certain policies to contradict others. When revising, updating or creating an employee handbook, it’s important to make sure that all information is consistent throughout the entire handbook and that there are no contradictory policies that could create confusion and cause problems in the future.
- Not following local regulations.
Handbook templates and examples often focus their policies on federal law, because it applies to all employers in the country. While it’s important to follow federal laws when crafting your employee handbook, you shouldn’t disregard state and other local laws and regulations. Only following federal laws can leave an employer non-compliant, as state laws will often go a step further than federal laws on areas such as paid time off, minimum wage, meal and rest periods and more.
- Not including required policies.
Most of a company’s handbook is full of discretionary policies in areas like dress code, attendance, workplace conduct, etc. However, there are some policies that employers are required to have, and those policies should be present in the handbook. For example, if the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is applicable to an employer, their employee handbook must include an FMLA policy.
- Not matching practices to written policies.
Having clear and concise policies is only one part of a good employee handbook – you also have to practice what you preach. If a company’s practices don’t match their written policies, it not only affects their credibility and reputation, it also leaves them vulnerable to employment claims. If you need to change your practices for some reason, then you need to update your handbook accordingly.
- Too much filler.
The employee handbook is meant to communicate policies and procedures that employees need to follow. Conciseness is important, as too much filler can make the handbook confusing or hard to follow. Employers may feel tempted to add more to the handbook to lighten it up or make it “more interesting,” but that’s not necessary and could actually be used against the employer in the event of an employment claim.
- Not properly distributing the handbook.
What good is an employee handbook if employees aren’t accessing it? In order to mitigate risks through a handbook, the employer must be able to prove that their employees have access to the most current copy. The handbook shouldn’t be just handed out to new employees and forgotten about. Each time there is a revision, employers should ensure that all employees have received an updated copy and have them sign a form that confirms receipt.
- Not having an objective perspective.
Internal staff are helpful in crafting a handbook that best applies to your company, but it’s also important to gain a more objective perspective from an outside source as well. HR consultants are useful in providing guidance on legal compliance and can spot inconsistencies that you or your internal staff failed to notice.
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.
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.