“You can’t post that!”
Or can they? Will it help? Does it hurt? Does it matter?
This may be something that many HR professionals have never thought about, but they should. If the last few years have taught the employers of the world anything, it’s that employment policies, and by extension employee handbooks, are more important than ever. By helping businesses stay compliant with employment laws, employee handbooks and employment policies are the backbone of HR infrastructure in business today.
Many years ago, some business owners would tell me that their lawyers directed them not to put employment agreements or policies in writing. Their approach was that if they don’t formally address a problem, it doesn’t exist. Setting aside the moral challenge of that approach, today there is an ever-increasing number of labor laws that employers must communicate to their employees. Although not legally required, employee handbooks allow employers to succinctly communicate all applicable labor laws in one accessible document. Without a handbook, employers would be left to draft an endless number of memos and have the employees sign them all. It’s much cleaner to get just one signature at the end of the employee handbook via an acknowledgment page.
As businesses and employees have pivoted during COVID and begun working remotely, communication and clear documentation are more important than ever.
An Employee handbook allows an employer to communicate their rights and expectations, including at-will employment, introductory periods, client confidentiality, etc. An employee handbook can also specify employees’ rights, including overtime, meal and rest breaks, parental leave, etc. In addition to listing the legal rights of employers and employees, a handbook may also address frequently asked employee questions about health benefits, vacation leave, and holiday pay. A robust handbook may also address the not-so-frequently-asked questions like who an employee should notify when they are sick and when and how that notification should take place, personal leave options after an injury, personal device usage in the workplace, and whether an employee can bring their pet to work.
One useful aspect about an employee handbook is that it enables employers to think through potential employee questions and issues before they arise. Addressing them beforehand, when you are in a calm, lucid state of mind, can make all the difference. Without a handbook, employers may get caught in a situation where they didn’t have a policy, and then when an employee asked them about it, they would come up with one on the spot. Now precedence has been set and guess what? The employer now has a new policy that may not fit everyone in the company. This can put employers in a very tough situation.
Employee handbooks do come in handy in the case of an employee labor law dispute. This document is one of the first things a government agency or the employee’s lawyer will ask for. Why? Because they want to know if the employer communicated all the laws and rights for which employees are eligible. The burden of proof is on the employer and if you don’t have documentation to back you up, you will be fighting an uphill battle. Written policies can help deal with lawsuits and can be used as evidence to help protect you, the employer.
Employee handbooks are more than merely insurance in case of a conflict. Businesses generally invest in external marketing; an employee handbook can help with the internal marketing piece! This important element considers how employees see and think about their place of work. An employee handbook gets the employee-employer relationship off on the right foot and sets the connection up for success. Plus, it’s a great guidebook for both employees and employers, keeps expectations consistent, and shows fairness in the workplace.
Written documentation is so important for business owners today. When questions arise, it is important for employers to be able to stand tall and know that they did everything they could to comply with current labor laws. An employee handbook is a wonderful HR infrastructure tool to support an employer’s efforts in that area.
To answer the title of this article, yes. Having an employee handbook is important. And because employment laws are dynamic and constantly changing, it is essential to keep it continuously updated. It’s a living and breathing document–one that can support the lifeforce of a healthy business.
In the end, “Can you post that?” is already answered.
Harbor HR Solutions
Harbor HR helps businesses manage their employee life cycle by creating policies and procedures to ensure consistency throughout the organization.
SixFifty‘s tools help businesses generate legal documents that meet the current and future needs of your business. We are continuously monitoring dynamic areas of the law and updating our tools with changes in real time. Working with SixFifty is like having the best employment lawyer in the world by your side. If you are ready to get started or have any questions, schedule a demo with SixFifty today!
Written by Glen Drouin
Glen Drouin had a 13-year career with his family owned business and followed that up with a 20-year career in Human Resources with a national company before starting his own HR consulting firm Harbor HR. Glen’s extensive knowledge and skillset has assisted numerous businesses throughout his 20-year career in Human Resources, employee and management development, and company culture shaping. Glen...
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