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Employee Handbook Updates You Need to Make

Employee Handbook Updates You Need to Make

Check these 14 items in your employee handbook to ensure they comply with new laws and regulations.

Every business, no matter the size, should have well-drafted employee handbooks. These policies clearly outline employee expectations, reducing confusion and reducing your risk of employee misconduct and incidents.

However, it is very important that those handbooks are updated annually to ensure that they are in compliance with any new or changed federal, state and local laws, as well as with any court decisions that could impact your business.

Here is a list of suggested issues and updates that should be looked at and included in your handbooks.

14 Updates to Your Employee Handbook

  • Your social media and digital data policies. If your handbook includes a policy that’s too restrictive it might not hold up in court. Handbooks must make it clear that employees have no right to privacy while accessing social media at work. Employees should not download apps onto a device that also contains employee information.
  • A policy regarding posting or saying negative things about the workplace or recording anything in the workplace.
  • Update or include a paid leave policy. Your state may have changed or added rules about paid leave.
  • If you don’t have one, include a weapons policy. If you do have one, you may need to update it. Many states now allow gun owners to keep a licensed firearm in their cars in your parking lot. If your state does allow this, it’s important to have a strong policy about bringing firearms onto your premises.
  • The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) states that companies must protect their employees’ free speech rights. Handbooks can prohibit employees from revealing confidential business information, but the text should avoid any language that could be interpreted as infringing on free speech.
  • You should also have a policy providing the same maternity leave to men as you have for female employees.
  • You may want to consider including a policy that allows you to fire someone for off-duty conduct violations related to their involvement in political protests and other forms of demonstration.
  • Your handbook should state that witnesses and others (whistleblowers) who participate in a retaliation claim will be protected. It should also state that the company cannot promise confidentiality for people who make retaliation complaints.
  • You should state in your handbook that employees may not work overtime without advance permission from their manager and that they will be disciplined if they do not do so.
  • You may want to include a policy stating procedures for correcting a mistake in the event of improper payment to or deductions from an employee’s pay.
  • If desired, you can have a policy that prohibits employees from discussing salaries.
  • Include information on how you will treat a worker who is not eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or who has exhausted such leave. The employee may be eligible for leave under the American’s with Disabilities Act. (ADA).
  • Handbooks should specifically mention where e-cigarettes can be used, treating them like any other tobacco product. For states where marijuana use is legal, the handbook should clearly state that employees should not be under the influence of legal drugs that impair them while on the job.
  • A 2015 U.S. Supreme Court Decision held that states must recognize same-sex marriages. As a result, companies must provide the same health and retirements to same-sex couples that they offer to other wedded individuals. Laws and regulations are still evolving regarding the employment rights of those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Make sure that you work with your legal team and use your handbook to express the intention to treat all employees equally regardless of their marital status, sexual orientation or sexual identity.

If you haven’t updated your employee handbook or HR manual recently, you need to put this at the top of your to-do list to protect your business. It is also a good idea to include legal counsel to review all new policies or updates. And be sure to distribute the updated handbook to every employee.