How to Update Your Employee Handbook Policies Effectively for 2021

February 1, 2021 - minute read

Now that 2021 is well under way, businesses have a chance to fully reflect on the difficulties of the past year, as well as identify and plan for more of the obstacles ahead. One of the best ways employers can support their operations properly is by updating employee handbooks.

Whether you’re looking to create guidelines addressing temporary pandemic mandates, adjust existing sections to reflect new labor laws, or simply build up areas that employees have struggled with in the past- maintaining up-to-date HR policies will help unite your workforce and soothe employees’ anxieties as this year unfolds.

Given the pandemic and social justice movements of 2020, let’s discuss the most significant handbook sections you should be adding to in 2021.

Top Handbook Areas to Update

In order to safeguard your business properly, it’s vital that your employee handbook gets regularly restructured or expanded. Here are the some of the top categories of note for this year:

Remote Work: Most hourly workforces weren’t able to transition their employees to fully remote positions or hybrid operations due to the in-person or physical nature of their industries. That said, you need to update your handbook to reflect all pandemic-related changes, including remote-work related policies however they apply. Even if your business continued limited operations or has already resumed operations with a full workforce, make sure the subject of remote work is addressed and that your employees know reasonable accommodations exist to uphold the Americans with Disabilities Act and other anti-discrimination laws.

Leave Mandates: Managing employees’ leaves of absence has become a lot more complicated compared to previous years. Last year, the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provided paid leave for specific workers who contracted COVID-19 or whose children’s schools or childcare were closed because of the pandemic. (The latest relief package has extended this mandate and related tax credits through March of this year.) However, some states, cities, and local counties have added even more extensive leave mandates that will remain in effect for at least part of 2021. Consider developing policies and procedures to reflect these while they still apply.

Workforce Health and Safety: As you know, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other state/local organizations require employers to provide a work environment that is "free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm." Having an employee handbook section dedicated to everything required of your employees to keep them healthy and safe under new dangers like coronavirus is critical for success in the new year. In addition to forming your own addendum to cover OSHA’s COVID-19-specific guidelines, update any state practices that are required for limiting your workers’ exposure to all new hazards.

Anti-Discrimination: In light of countless social movements seeking to end institutionalized discrimination, it’s never been more vital to prioritize efforts protecting certain marginalized communities within your employee handbook as well as your daily operations. In order to uphold Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that means crafting policies and workforce management practices to reflect updated Supreme Court decisions and the needs of the employees in your care. For instance, in June 2020, the Supreme Court elaborated on “sex” discrimination for added LGBTQ+ protections. Make sure you take a conscious approach to these new changes within your handbook!

Substance Use and Drug-Testing: Regardless of where your state falls on matters such as legalized marijuana, the increasing number of substance-related laws are bound to affect or change your handbook policies in 2021. Although no states require employers to allow for on-the-job cannabis use or intoxication by other substances, many states defend registered medical marijuana patients from employer retaliation and discrimination. This means you need to have thorough rules for defining and dealing with such scenarios compliantly. Take time to verify your state’s current laws and deliver them in a clear and concise policy to avoid complications.

Need Help with Your Handbook?

When you choose EPAY Systems, you’re choosing more than just a workforce management system or payroll provider. You’re choosing a team of HR and technology experts whose goal is to successfully guide your business through ongoing compliance changes and hourly workforce obstacles with ease.

We provide competitive software solutions for boosting ROI, access to premium HR-consulting services, and regular updates on hourly workforce compliance and workforce management news (check out our COVID-19 resource page) so you never have to face anything you aren’t prepared for alone. Download our Free Employee Handbook and request a demo today!

Filed Under: Compliance HR Management