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Employee Handbooks: Best Practices to Protect Your Organization

A well-thought-out and well-written employee handbook is very important to protect your organization. While not required under federal law, an employee handbook can go a long way in communicating clear expectations to employees and limiting liability for your organization. This post discusses why employee handbooks are helpful to employers, what policies to consider, and best overall practices when creating or updating an employee handbook.

Benefits of an Employee Handbook

An employee handbook benefits the employer in several ways. First, it’s a useful one-stop document for employee information. If an employee is unsure of what is acceptable or permitted, she can refer to her handbook for guidance. Second, handbooks give employers the opportunity to clearly communicate expectations in the workplace, and conversely gives clear notice to employees about specific policies like sexual harassment or drug use. This keeps everyone on the same page. Third, an employee handbook can help ensure consistency and uniformity in how the rules are applied to employees. When procedures are clearly laid out in employee handbooks and followed by management, it helps reduce discrimination claims against the employer. Finally, handbooks protect employers by showing good faith on the part of the employer trying to prevent bad behavior within the company.

Crafting Your Policies

There are thousands of employee handbook templates floating around on the internet. It would be very easy to copy and paste one of them for your organization needs; however, we strongly advise against that. Taking language from another company and adopting it as your own without careful review of each and every policy could be problematic for your organization. Instead, consider creating your own handbook policy by policy. Here are a few examples, though there will likely be many policies you should include. For instance, your company policy on sexual harassment should include procedures for reporting sexual harassment in the workplace and information about the training the company provides on this topic. You will usually include at-will employment language in the company handbook so that an employee does not claim that the employee handbook is an employment contract. You’ll want to include language that is specific to your industry (if necessary).

Building a Compliant Handbook

When you are building your employee handbook, whether you are building it from scratch or taking the template from another source, it is essential to research each component to make sure your policies are up-to-date and legally compliant with all relevant state and federal laws. You also don’t want language that inadvertently creates obligations you did not intend. Typically, your attorney will do this review. Once your handbook has been created, it’s a good idea to review it annually to make sure all of your policies and procedures are still compliant with the most current federal and state laws.

Conclusion

Employee handbooks can be an incredibly helpful tool for employers to promote a good workplace environment, communicate expectations to employees, and protect their company from liability. If you have created your own handbook, it’s a good idea to consult with legal counsel to ensure your document is legally compliant with all state and federal laws and says what you were trying to say. One of the best ways to protect your company from unnecessary internal problems and even litigation is to be proactive in developing and updating the employee handbook.

Click here to access a PDF of the white paper, "Religious Employer Handbook" to learn more on this subject. 

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Featured Image: "Document, notepad, sheet and memo" by rawpixel on Unsplash.
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