7 Employee Handbook Mistakes to Avoid
Employee Handbooks can be useful tools for employers and employees alike (see our article, Do You Need an Employee Handbook?), but if not prepared properly, an employee handbook sometimes do more harm than good, since poorly drafted handbooks can create additional, unintended obligations on the part of the employer that the employer doesn’t know it needs to satisfy.
Your employee handbook should reflect your company’s unique culture, circumstances, and workforce. While there may be standard language or clauses that should be included in virtually every employee handbook, don’t make the mistake of simply copying a template or online handbook without adapting it for your company’s individual needs.
Including Too Much Detail
Your employee handbook should outline general policies and disciplinary procedures, but should not be overly detailed or include step by step explanations of each disciplinary policy. It is impossible to account for every situation that might arise, and going into extensive detail in each management policy can subject every action to additional scrutiny. In addition, employees are not likely to read a long, overly-detailed handbook.
Some employers also make the mistake of using the employee handbook to address specific issues that have arisen in the past involving individuals at the company. This can cause discontent among employees and impact morale. To that end, good employees often resent it when additional rules are imposed on them because of the acts one bad actor. Being too detailed can also limit discretion and impede flexibility when dealing with a particular situation.
Leaving Out the Anti-Harassment Policy
Workplace harassment is in the spotlight with recent high-profile revelations and investigations in politics, entertainment, and the corporate world. In addition, depending on the size of your business, state and federal laws may require your business to take steps to identify and address harassment in the workplace.
Your employee handbook should include a harassment policy that clearly defines harassment, outlines what employees should do if they experience workplace harassment, how to report it, and to whom. The handbook should clearly state that any complaints of harassment will be promptly investigated.
Overly Restrictive Computer and Social Media Policies
Many employers reserve the right to monitor employee email communications, social media, and internet use. Your employee handbook should clearly advise employees of the company’s email and internet monitoring policies to ensure that employees are aware that these activities may not be confidential. But use caution to ensure that your policy and its enforcement does not run afoul of labor and employment laws such as the National Labor Relations Act by prohibiting employee speech, especially about wages and other work issues.
Omitting Important Disclaimers
If permitted by law in your state, all employee handbooks should clearly state that employment is at will, that the employee handbook does not constitute an employment contract, and that the employee can be fired at any time, for reasons not included in the handbook or for no reason at all, with or without cause. It should also include a statement that the employee handbook cannot possibly cover all situations in the workplace.
Not Regularly Updating the Handbook
Company policies change, and these changes should be reflected in the employee handbook. You should review your employee handbook yearly, and update it to account for any and all new company policies, removing outdated ones. Your review and update should also reflect any modifications to state, local, and federal employment laws to ensure that your handbook remains in compliance with those laws.
Failing to Consult an Employment Attorney
When creating or reviewing your employee handbook, it is important to consult with an employment law attorney in your state who is familiar with federal, state, and local municipal employment rules that may affect your company and your handbook. For help finding a qualified employment law lawyer in your area, post a summary of your needs to our site and let the perfect attorney come to you.
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