A new year means new laws. Eight states have over 18 employment laws that took effect on January 1, 2024, and your employee handbook should reflect these changes. To protect your company and your employees, it’s important to proactively address these legal updates. Although it can be overwhelming to keep your employee handbook up to date, it’s a necessary task to help ensure your company maintains compliance with changing employment laws.

We’ve compiled some information about how to create and maintain your employee handbook(s).

Is an employee handbook important?

Employee handbooks have always been important, and given today’s remote and dispersed workforces, they may be more imperative than ever. Handbook creation has become increasingly difficult due to varying requirements in each state—sometimes even at the city level.

It can be challenging to keep employee handbooks up to date, but it’s key to protecting your business while keeping workers engaged. Employee handbooks must always be consistent with the law and with your own business’s practices. Companies may want to consider restructuring their handbooks as they expand their reach to include multiple geographies with varying regulations.

What are the different types of employee handbooks?

Employers generally choose one of four main structures for their employee handbook:

  • Universal handbook: One handbook that governs all employees regardless of location. This approach takes the most generous state law (i.e. the most favorable to the employee) and provides that level of protection to all employees.
  • Combined handbook with state-specific policies: One handbook that has separate state-specific policies. For example, there may be five different jury duty leave policies if the company has employees in five states. The upside is that the employee handbook remains one single document. However, there are a couple of drawbacks. As companies expand their geographic reach, these handbooks can become long and confusing for employees. Also, employees can see the benefits provided to employees in other locations, which may be more generous than their own benefits.
  • Handbook with addenda: One main handbook with the most universal policies (likely from one or two main states), plus accompanying addenda for additional states. One advantage to this type of handbook is that when a company hires an employee in a new state, it’s relatively easy to add an addendum. However, this can confuse employees if they have to switch back and forth from the handbook to the addenda to see what policies apply to them.
  • Multiple handbooks: Separate handbooks for each state. This allows the employer to specify and focus on the requirements of each state. It is simple to change one state’s handbook when a state law changes, but it can be extremely difficult to keep all handbooks current and accessible to employees. For example, a minor change to company-wide holidays becomes monumental if it needs to be made in every handbook.

What are some best practices for building and maintaining an employee handbook?

Creating an employee handbook should be a team effort when possible. It’s helpful to have multiple perspectives and input from leadership, HR, and legal teams. A collaborative effort can help you create the handbook that’s right for your company.

  • Before beginning the process, you should review employee data to know how many employees are in each state.
  • Based on the size and location of your organization, you’ll be able to determine which type of handbook you should create. If you have employees in just three states, it may make sense to include all of the content in one handbook. If most of your employees are in one state but you have a few in other states, you may want to create a main handbook for the main state and use an addenda for the other states.
  • You should review applicable federal, state, and local employment laws to ensure that your handbook is compliant.
  • Determine additional, optional policies that make sense for your company. By establishing clear policies and rules, you can help ensure that your workplace runs smoothly and conflicts are resolved in a consistent manner. Be sure that these policies do not infringe on employee’s rights.

Blissbook has compiled an in-depth guide detailing How to Write Policies & Procedures. This boring-in-name-only guide walks you through the typical handbook origin/rewrite project, all its steps, and all the people you should talk with along the way. It even includes printable worksheets and reference guides.

Want your handbook to showcase your company culture? Here are some tips from Blissbook on How to Write a Culture-First Employee Handbook. You don’t need a separate culture guide and employee handbook. With Blissbook’s read more capability, which enables you to hide content behind a button, you can put all your content in one place to keep it culture-friendly and easy for employees to search.

How often should you update your employee handbook?

Employers should create a plan to keep their employee handbook up to date. Rather than updating sporadically or only in emergencies, it’s important to update employee handbooks at regular intervals.

  • It is a best practice to review your employee handbook at least annually, especially going into the new year. The most common “effective date” for employment laws is January 1. Sometimes changes in the law or within your organization may require you to update your handbook more frequently.
  • A handbook review isn’t strictly for legal purposes. It’s also an opportunity to review your organization’s culture. How has your company changed over the past year? What policies need to be added or updated based on those changes?
  • If you hire an employee in a new state, you should update your handbook to include any relevant state policies.
  • If your organization has significant changes in its size, you’ll want to review legal thresholds to determine whether you need to update your handbook.

Let’s create an employee handbook together!

It can be easy for day-to-day issues to consume much of your attention, but your employee handbook is crucial to your company’s operations. It’s important from a legal standpoint, yes, but it’s also key to your company culture. Your employees are most likely to succeed if your policies and expectations are clearly outlined in your handbook. Never underestimate the value of a comprehensive, up-to-date employee handbook.

Generate your compliant employee handbook with SixFifty

Keep your organization compliant in all 50 states with SixFifty’s comprehensive Employee Handbook builder. Answer questions through a guided Q&A to create all your necessary federal, state, and local policies. Schedule a demo to see our world-class technology in action.

Looking for the employee handbook requirements for your state? View our interactive map for required employee handbook policies by state.