When was the last time you updated your company’s employee handbook? If it’s been over a year, you’re due for an update. Employment laws keep changing; hot HR issues keep shifting. Today, savvy employers are treating the employee handbook as a living document, updating it at least once a year.
Of course, the employee handbook has several functions. It unequivocally states many company HR policies and procedures. It specifies how workers are expected to behave at work, and how the employer may respond when they don’t.
In addition, the employee handbook is one of a new hire’s first introductions to the company. An employee handbook that positively reflects a company’s brand and culture can serve as a valuable hiring and retention tool.
Needless to say, when updating your employee handbook:
- Make sure it’s clear and concise. Otherwise, employees may not read or understand it.
- Leave yourself wiggle room. Don’t box yourself in when situations call for flexibility.
- Do your due diligence. Have your legal counsel review it to ensure compliance.
In addition, stay on top of recent employment issues—ones that may not have been significant in the past but are creating challenges now, including these five key areas.
Address Use of Company Devices in Your Employee Handbook
If some of your employees have access to company laptops, tablets, smartphones etc., they should know what they can and can’t do with them. You may choose to restrict usage of social media, for example, or make it clear that employees may not download apps or personal documents onto company devices.
In addition, you may want to spell out how employees are to handle devices that they take with them (i.e., not leaving them unattended in parked cars), as well as the policies and procedures for reporting lost or stolen company-provided property.
Use the Employee Handbook to Prevent Unauthorized Overtime
While revised federal overtime rules remain in flux, overtime continues to cost employers millions. One way to limit costs is to prohibit unauthorized overtime in your employee handbook. Make it clear in your policies and procedures: workers should not work overtime without advance direction/permission from their manager.
In addition, your overtime policy may specify that nonexempt employees should not conduct any business outside of work hours, including job-related emailing (which has been known to create overtime pay disputes).
Expand Your Smoking Policy to Include Vaping
E-cigarettes continue to grow in popularity. However, surveys show that—while most employees know their company’s smoking policy—they don’t necessarily know the rules about vaping on company property. This could be because their company doesn’t yet have vaping policies and procedures in place.
If you’re one of those companies, think about developing a company policy regarding e-cigarettes. True, the jury is still out regarding the pros and cons of vaping, and not all states have passed laws that address e-cigarettes in smoke-free venues. So this may be a moving target, but one that should be on your radar.
In the last few years, unprecedented hurricanes and floods have ripped a wide swath of chaos through the U.S. If you operate in some of these areas, do your managers and employees know where they stand, work-wise, in the event of a natural disaster?
If you don’t already have one, perhaps it’s time to develop policies and procedures regarding employee leave in these situations—as well as an emergency staffing plan. At the least, the employee handbook can indicate who employees should contact to share information during a local disaster.
Take a Second Look at Your Company Drug Policy
Medical marijuana is now legal in 30 states; recreational marijuana is legal in nine. Meanwhile, the opioid crisis continues. As a result, a number of employers are updating their company drug policy, not only to stay compliant with evolving state and local laws, but to stay abreast of changing social and medical considerations.
Some companies are making accommodations for card-holding medical marijuana users. Others are expanding their five-panel drug tests to more comprehensive 10-panel screens that identify opioid use. If you haven’t reviewed your company drug policies and procedures in a while, now is the time—and, of course, your employee handbook should be updated accordingly.
Getting the Most of Your Employee Handbook
You can have the greatest employee handbook in the world, but if your employees don’t read it, it’s not very helpful. One way to ensure it is read is to ask employees to sign an acknowledgement both during the new hire onboarding process and each time you release an update.
EPAY’s integrated HCM software allows employers to post an electronic version of their employee handbook online via our self-service portal, so employees can access it—as well as other valuable HR and payroll information—as needed. It’s just one of many ways we make HR easier and more efficient for employers. Want to learn other ways we can help? Start by taking our two-minute tour.