Why You Should Update Your Handbook Regularly
Many companies create an employee handbook, print copies, post it online, and then never think about it again. But in these changing times, an employee handbook needs to be updated frequently to reflect new policies, laws, and safety standards. In fact, some would say that having an outdated handbook is as detrimental as not having a handbook at all. Below are some issues to consider.
These past few years have brought about various changes to company policies. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees have begun working remotely. Be sure your handbook clearly outlines expectations for those who work from home and those who are onsite. Also, include information about future expectations for hybrid work if that is applicable to your organization.
Local and State Laws
Keep current on all local and state laws changes, and ensure those details are reflected in your handbook. For instance, in recent years, many states have legalized personal marijuana use. As needed, revise your handbook to explain that even legal drugs are not acceptable in the workplace. Although you cannot control what workers do on their own time, spell out your zero-tolerance position on the job site. Just as your employees should not be under the influence of alcohol at work, they should be using marijuana or other drugs on the job either. (You must, of course, make exceptions for prescription drugs that do not hinder job performance.)
If you choose to drug-test, make sure you follow your state laws regarding medical marijuana use and related factors. Most companies schedule testing during the pre-employment process, after an accident that might be drug-related, and if there appears to be drug use on the job. Explain those guidelines in your handbook.
Harassment and Discrimination Issues
Courts and lawmakers have issued many recent rulings and legislation to prohibit harassment and discrimination in the workplace. You must make every effort to protect your workers’ rights and ensure they are treated fairly by both their colleagues and management. Be sure to update your manual as needed to reflect those initiatives.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, most employees have become accustomed to social distancing, wearing masks, and regular handwashing. However, as the coronavirus variants prevent the pandemic from dissipating, it may be a long time before workers can let their guard down. And some safety guidelines may stay in place for some time. Double-check that all those standards are outlined in your handbook.
Employee Compliance and Legal Review
Once your handbook is updated, meet with supervisors and make sure they understand the policies and are trained to answer questions from their workers. Also, devise a system to track all employees’ receipt of the handbook. This recordkeeping is essential during a safety inspection, as it illustrates your commitment to educating your employees and protecting their well-being.
If you are uncertain about some handbook requirements or best practices, be sure to consult legal counsel. The experienced employment attorneys at Cotney can advise you on what elements to include and the best language to use. Their input can go a long way in ensuring the success of your company.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.