Your employee handbook can be an invaluable organizational tool—or an employment lawsuit waiting to happen. And in recent years, Congress and state legislatures have been busy enacting laws that directly affect your employee handbook. If you haven’t kept up, your organization could be sued.
Is your handbook missing something, contradicting another policy, saying too much, using confusing language, over-promising … or worse, simply out-of-date?
To help you avoid disaster, we’ve compiled this special report, The Essential Employee Handbook, which provides employee handbook sample policy language, employment law guidelines, self-audit tips and warnings on the most common mistakes that may be lurking in your employee handbook.
Overview: Bullet-proof your employee handbook
An employee handbook can be the foundation of employee performance and a shield against lawsuits, or it can be a ticking time bomb that confuses employees and strips away your legal defenses. It all depends on how well it’s written and put to use.
Companies face many hazards if they try to whip up handbooks on the fly. Too often, handbooks are inconsistent with the way business is actually conducted, or they mistakenly imply that workers have certain rights.
Don’t let your employee handbook collect dust
“Each year, new employment laws go on the books and courts write thousands upon thousands of decisions interpreting old laws,” says Jonathan Hyman. “Yet, year after year, many HR professionals reach up onto a dusty shelf to hand new employees the same old employee handbook someone wrote years ago—too often without a second of consideration whether the contents still pass legal muster.”
Keep it simple
Your handbook shouldn’t be a legalistic tome with detailed instructions to managers and complex benefit specifications. Keep it simple; write in plain English.
Nevertheless, it’s important to have an attorney review the document. A poorly worded employee handbook can create contract obligations.
Have employees sign off
To preserve the “at-will” status of employees whom you may hire and fire at will, include provisions in the handbook that say employment is at will and that nothing in the handbook should be considered a contract or guarantee of employment. Document employees’ agreement to this by having them sign and return an acknowledgment form.