Is it Time to Review Your Employee Handbook? #CAHR15
Employee handbooks are central to what we do in HR. As such, it is important that the handbook not only reflect company culture but that it is also updated regularly when new laws go into effect. Your handbook should be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that it is current. Also, make sure to read through policies to ensure they still reflect how you do business and then make changes in accordance with new laws. Here are some other tips to bring your handbook up to speed.
Handbook Best Practices
At the California HR Conference this week, Greg Labate, an attorney with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, spoke about best practices for employee handbooks. He said that a handbook tells employees what they need to do to be a good citizen of the company. The handbook also protects the employer by documenting compliance with the law.
The handbook should be a clear and concise statement of the company’s important policies and legal defenses that generally apply to all employees. Labate added that employers should avoid creating a handbook that is overly long or one that contains many policies that only apply to small groups of people. Such limited policies should be a separate document.
Labate also spoke about the importance of having a paper acknowledgement form. The risk with an electronic form is that an employee could say that their manager signed it for them and that they never actually received the handbook. With a paper acknowledgement form, it would be hard for an employee to contest their own ink signature. Labate even suggested that a best practice would be to give employees a hard copy of the handbook to make sure they get it.
Drafting & Updating the Handbook
While there is software available to help create a handbook, the best practice is to enlist help from a professional and to even consider having an attorney review your handbook to ensure it does not contain any illegal policies. Include the date on each version of the handbook. If you are in a state like California, updates will happen regularly, so it is important that employees can easily access the most current version.
There are a number of policies to include, and there are usually important additional policies based on where you do business. These include things like your company’s anti-discrimination statement, policy against harassment, a statement that employment is at-will (if applicable), employee status , meal/rest breaks, statement against off-the-clock work, social media, dress code, standards of conduct, how to make a grievance and more. Work with an HR professional or attorney to make sure you include all the relevant policies.
Bonus Tip for California Employers
California employers should have updated their handbooks earlier this year to include information on the state’s new paid sick leave law. At the California HR Conference, Holly Lake and Walter Stella, attorneys with the Miller Law Group, addressed the new law as well as updates from when it was recently amended.
The law went into effect on July 1, 2015 and has brought paid sick leave to a number of employees such as part timers and temps who were previously without it. Lake and Stella acknowledged that many employers are still struggling to make sure their policies are compliant due to the complexity of the law.
Stella advised employers to keep an eye on the Labor Commissioner’s website for guidance on the amended version of the law. Employers in California should review the law to ensure they are in compliance. There are several options for providing employees with paid sick leave, and there are a number of documentation and usage requirements, so many employers may want to enlist a professional to help draft and review their policy.
About the Author
Stephanie Hammerwold, PHR, is the co-owner of Hammerwold & Pershing and specializes in small business HR support. Stephanie writes as the HR Hammer and is a regular contributor at Blogging4Jobs, The HR Gazette and TalentCulture, and she gives presentations on a variety of job search and workplace topics. She specializes in training, employee relations, women’s issues and writing employment policy. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
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