What Good is an Employee Handbook, Anyway?
A Google search for “most boring book in the world” results in a wide variety of titles from Moby Dick to the Twilight series. But a quick survey of folks around the office might show a very different consensus: your Employee Handbook. It’s understandable to some extent – dry, legalese policies…multiple appearances of the phrase “up to and including termination”…and no vampires (right?). Even worse, an outdated handbook or supervisors who don’t implement its policies can expose your organization to significant legal risk.
So why bother? Is it really worth your valuable time and money to create an Employee Handbook that no one wants to read? You bet it is.
- Both federal and state laws require employers to clearly inform employees of their rights on a variety of topics including leaves of absence, paydays, and reporting workplace concerns. A well-written handbook demonstrates your compliance with the law and builds trust with your staff. It also allows you to clarify employees’ responsibilities such as reasonable notice for time off and medical certification for disability accommodations.
- Sound, compliant policies can provide a starting point for defending legal claims. When faced with an accusation of missed rest periods or discouraging safety suggestions, handbook language such as, “Employees are encouraged to take rest periods…” or “Our company welcomes all safety-related concerns and complaints” can establish your company’s general approach to the topic in question.
- Your handbook should provide a valuable road map for supervisors to answer employee questions and address performance concerns. Consistent application of performance standards and behavior expectations bolsters supervisor confidence, strengthens employee trust in your decision-making, and reduces your risk of discrimination claims. By including specific policy language in your verbal or written warnings, you also add credibility to your request for improvement.
It’s important to note that an outdated handbook collecting dust on a shelf can actually do more harm than good. If managers are not familiar with what the policies say, or if company practices have changed over time, you may be losing the benefits described above. Employees who never before cared to read the handbook will be quick to point out your failure to abide by its policies when they have a complaint.
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