Change is the only constant in life, according to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus. This also is true of employee handbooks. To keep up with ever-changing laws and company policies, employers need to review employee handbooks annually with a Human Resources professional to make sure old policies that have been updated are changed, new policies are added, new laws are addressed and business continuity plans are in place.
A poorly written manual creates confusion. It may hinder your ability to respond effectively and consistently to critical situations in the workplace that can open you up to liabilities and/or lawsuits that could have been prevented.
Important areas to review and what they could cover include:
- Disclaimers: The disclaimer specifies, for example, that the company is at will in an at-will state and the handbook is a guide, not a contract.
- Equal employment opportunities: These include The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and harassment complaint procedures.
- Employee relationship: Employment classifications, timecards and overtime.
- Workplace safety: Use of drugs, alcohol and marijuana in the workplace; workplace violence; emergency closings; social media; employee grievances; and the company’s commitment to safety.
- Workplace guidelines: Whether employees are allowed to have a second job; cellphone policy.
- Time off and leaves of absence: Holidays; bereavement leave; jury duty leave.
- Insurance benefits: Medical insurance, dental and vision; worker’s compensation.
An employee handbook provides the foundation for a positive workplace. It sets expectations for employee conduct and protects the employer by ensuring the company addresses employee issues consistently. It’s a reference guide for everyone in the company, including leaders, managers, supervisors and employees.
Business continuity plans, which cover all aspects of the business, are vital in cases of natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and national emergencies, such as the coronavirus pandemic. Even if you don’t have the whole plan in the handbook, include a reference that lets employees know there is a plan in place that the business will follow in an emergency. I had a business in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit and we had to go into the business continuity plan. Employees want to know whether they’ll be paid in an emergency situation, and employers want to make sure they’re taking care of their employees. The plan also should state whether the business will close if there is a state shutdown in an emergency.
In an emergency such as a natural disaster or pandemic, companies also should have a strategy as to whether they want to furlough or lay off employees. What’s the difference? Furloughed employees, both full time and part time, still have ties to the company and retain health insurance coverage, but employees who are laid off no longer receive benefits.
Handbooks also need to be updated to address changes in state and federal laws, such as those legalizing medical or recreational marijuana use and hand-held cellphone bans.
There is no cookie-cutter structure for an employee handbook. There are similarities and differences among businesses and states. California state laws, for example, are more employee-friendly than Massachusetts laws. In California, state laws favor the employee in such areas as sick leave, paid time off and worker’s compensation.
A handbook can foster a positive workplace environment and eliminate employee confusion. But it’s important to house the handbook on one site that is accessible to everyone. Employees at one company were frustrated because the employee handbook was available on a quality company website, the corporate website and a shared services website, but the policies weren’t consistent on the three sites.
For more information about employee handbooks, go to my website at https://www.melodybeachconsulting.com/ or contact me at email@example.com. If you have questions about what should be included in a business continuity plan, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m thrilled to have been named to the Executive Council of AARP Massachusetts. The Executive Council is a group of leadership volunteers who are tasked with carrying out the organization’s strategic priorities in each state. My volunteer work with AARP is a reflection of my longstanding efforts to help people over 50 find employment.
50+ Job Seekers going virtual
The 50+ Job Seekers meetings are being moved online because of COVID-19 concerns. The virtual meetings will be available through Zoom in April, May and June. Pre-registration is required the first time you attend a program – once for each community location. To register, go to https://50plusjobseekers.org/outreach/registration/. Once you’re registered, you’ll receive email notifications about upcoming meetings. You can register for specific meetings through the emails.
The virtual meeting dates and April topics for my four group locations are:
- Monday, April 20, 9 a.m. to noon, interviewing.
- Monday, May 11, 9 a.m. to noon.
- Friday, May 29, 1 to 4 p.m.
- Monday, June 8, 9 a.m. to noon.
- Monday, June 22, 9 a.m. to noon.
- Friday, April 10, 1 to 4 p.m., networking.
- Friday, April 24, 1 to 4 p.m., LinkedIn for networking.
- Thursday, April 9, 9 a.m. to noon, networking.
- Thursday, April 23, 9 a.m. to noon, interviewing.
- Thursday, May 14, 9 a.m. to noon.
- Thursday, May 28, 9 a.m. to noon.
- Thursday, June 11, 9 a.m. to noon.
- Thursday, June 25, 9 a.m. to noon.
- Monday, April 13, 9 a.m. to noon, networking.
- Monday, May 18, 9 a.m. to noon.
- Monday, June 15, 9 a.m. to noon.
For more information or questions about the meetings, contact me at email@example.com.