Employee Handbooks: A **Must** in Today's Work Environment

It might seem like old hat, but having a current employee handbook is more important today than it was years ago. In today’s work environment, employees are more apt to turn to an outside source for advice on how to handle a situation or an issue that did or does not please them in their workplace. Your best protection may be a properly written employee handbook.

In addition to providing a good defense when negotiating employment issues, an up-to-date employee handbook provides several practical advantages: it helps with the credibility of decisions based on policies by publishing the policies; it reduces confusion about policies, and what the company’s position is; it helps to acquaint new employees with the company; it can help resolve employee complaints; it provides support for compliance with employment laws; it can help reduce the risk of discrimination claims; and helps to promote consistency in the treatment of all employees.

So, just who should have one? Any business, including small businesses, should have one. After an entrepreneur has hired his or her capable relatives and best friends, and needs additional help, its time to ensure things are written down to ensure fair and consistent treatment. This includes organizations with as few as 2-5 employees.

Compliance with employment laws is based on employee population, and it is necessary to know which laws affect your company. Lots of start-ups are owned and managed by individuals who left large companies and take their former employer’s handbook with them. This is not a good practice as not all employment laws that the former company had to comply with are required for the start-up. Also, pulling a handbook off the internet is not a good practice either. You still must know which employment laws apply to you and what is important in your business.

The current administration in Washington has made several changes to employment laws which must be reflected in your policies and procedures. If you have a handbook, it is imperative that it be maintained and is consistent with current legislation. Recent changes have been made to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), just to name a few. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which affects medical coverage will have implications for several years to come.

There is a great deal of recent publicity and action in the courts related to social networking. Should it be allowed in your workplace or not? When does checking out an employees post on Facebook constitute an invasion of privacy, or does it? Social networking should be addressed in your handbook.

Properly written handbooks help an employer and increase morale in the organization. If you have one, be sure it is up-to-date. If you don’t, it might be a good thing to consider as you write your goals for the new year.

The above information is provided for informational purposes and is not to be considered legal advice. Questions, call Larry Elinskas at 804-966-8100.