• Ensuring employees know what is expected of them when fulfilling their work responsibilities per your company’s policies and procedures.
• Providing you with a standard framework within which to make decisions and resolve problems. This way, you won’t have to recreate the wheel every time you are faced with a situation or question and you can ensure you treat employees consistently.
• Informing you and your employees about the regulations and policies that are required per the Federal and State laws applicable to your business and helping to ensuring everyone’s compliance with these laws.
• Giving your employees a go-to document, so that you don’t have to spend your time answering questions.
Nonetheless, a poorly written and/or implemented handbook can get you into trouble. Here are some things to keep in mind to help avoid creating liability issues with your handbook:
Don’t use phrases that create a guarantee of employment. Avoid words such as “permanent” and “probation”. Also, avoid phrases such as “you can expect to be employed as long as you do a good job”.
• You need to follow the policies and procedures in your handbook — and a promise in an employee handbook may obligate you. For example,
– if you have a three-step disciplinary process and choose to immediately
terminate an employee, then the employee could challenge that the disciplinary process was promised and he/she wasn’t given an opportunity to improve their performance or stop the inappropriate conduct.
– if you have less than 50 employees then you do not have to comply with the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act. However, if you include information on this
act in your handbook (even though you are not required to offer it) and then choose not to offer it to an employee; the court will likely find that you are liable to provide this benefit given you made the promise in the handbook.
• Review the handbook often to ensure it is consistent with your actual practice and compliant with changing laws and regulations.
• Be sure to send out updated policies or new handbook versions when you change or add new information to your handbook. Employees might claim they relied on the written policies in the handbook and did not know about the new or different information. Don’t forget to have employees sign a new acknowledgement form and place it in their personnel files.
• Remember to include an at-will employment statement and contract disclaimer in the employee handbook. And include a specific disclaimer with certain policies such as those related to progressive discipline, grievance resolution, and standards of conduct.
• Train managers in the proper administration of company policies and procedures.
• Be sure to give new employees your handbook when they start with your company.
• ALWAYS be FAIR and CONSISTENT in the interpretation and enforcement of your employee handbook.
Your employee handbook should help you to prevent problems — so be sure it is well-written and helps you manage your company and work with your employees in a way that saves you a lot of time, money, and energy!
YOUR TURN: What have you done to ensure your employee handbook helps you and your business? Reply below.