Is Your Employee Handbook Up-To-Date?

Asking the question “When was the last time your employee handbook was updated?” is usually met with a laugh or pause, followed by “not recently enough.” It’s no secret that labor laws, both on the federal and state level, change at a rapid pace and create a difficult task from a compliance standpoint. It’s also true that company growth can lead to additional requirements and employee protections. Considering this, it might be a good time to have your employee handbook reviewed.

Whether you do an internal review or have someone outside of the company take a look, remember that the policies you have are just as important as the policies you don’t have. Likewise, the wording you use can be the difference in whether your policy is compliant or not. For example, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled last year that Chipotle’s social media policy violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) because the wording used was too broad and did not provide a clear definition of what was and wasn’t acceptable. This was only one of several issues the NLRB found, and almost all of those cited are present in a large number of social media policies today. The lesson here is that your wording – such as handbooks that prohibit employees from discussing their pay – can get you into trouble. Consider your wording carefully and remember that it’s important to be specific, but not too specific. Easy enough, right?

As for your policies, having ones you don’t actually need or enforce “just in case” is no better than omitting those you should have. For instance, a company with 40 employees that includes a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy in the handbook simply because they’ll eventually need it is setting themselves up for problems. Keep it simple and only incorporate the policies you actually enforce, and update when necessary. On the flip side, make sure you aren’t forgetting important policies. Some of the ones we see omitted most often are COBRA, Workers’ Compensation, and I-9 Immigration Reform, to name a few.

Finally, be sure to inform your employees after any notable changes are made and give them the opportunity to ask questions, should they need to. The handbook and policies in question do affect them the most, after all.

Patrick Pierce, PHR®, ARM

Resource Consultant