Eighteen months of the coronavirus pandemic have wreaked havoc on workplace employee handbooks as human resource departments and small business owners struggled to rewrite the rules in the face of mandatory work from home orders and heightened safety standards. The attendant headache and hassle remind us, however, of why we need handbooks in the first place: they provide clear instruction for employees and employers alike, and they provide important legal protection for employers.
As a general rule, people like clarity and certainty. And they like fairness. A well-written, regularly updated employee handbook provides workers a clear understanding of company rules and policies and what is expected of them. It also gives the assurance that everyone will be called to adhere to the same playbook. For employers, the employee handbook offers efficiency for managers and supervisors dealing with workplace misconduct or questions. They need not reinvent the wheel. They can simply point to the handbook and the policies set forth within it.
Equally important for employers, the employee handbook provides a unique opportunity to set forth policies that must be reduced to print and published in order to provide legal protection. For example, a “use it or lose it” vacation policy must be in writing. Or if a rogue supervisor engages in discriminatory conduct, the employer cannot separate itself from that employee unless it can point to its established anti-discrimination policies and its efforts to enforce them.
If your company does not have an employee handbook (or policy manual, as some call them), it needs one. Once in place, the handbook needs to be reviewed and updated periodically to make sure it reflects current law and current practices. Finally, as I often remind clients, the only thing worse than not having an employee handbook is having one that you do not follow. Make sure your handbook reflects your actual policies, and if it does not, change it.
If you could use some help with your company’s employee handbook, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (248) 477-6300.