The employee handbook is not only a guide for employees, but also your legal protection against future issues with any of your company’s policies. It’s important to clearly delineate your company’s stance on employment matters and also go beyond taking a generic legal stance on things like anti-discrimination. In today’s political and cultural climate, specificity is necessary.
Here are eight items that must—and may not currently—be included in your handbook):
- Acknowledgment of receipt for employee file. Have a place for the employee to sign in acknowledgement that they have read and received the handbook, so that they cannot use the excuse, “I never knew about that rule.”
- Gender bathroom policy: Are nonbinary individuals allowed to use opposite gender bathrooms if they identify as such? Be clear and compassionate, no matter your policy.
- Updated dress code. You may have a dress code, but is it specific enough to account for current fashion? Have you noticed younger employees dressing in a way that does not represent your company’s culture or values? Make sure that your code gives enough detail so that it can be followed faithfully. Do not expect younger generations to “just know what’s appropriate.”
- Room to edit. Make sure that you leave in a clause stating that you can update the handbook at any time. This is your business, and you have the right to edit or change the rules as you see fit.
- Lunch policy. Lunch rules are often unclear. Lay them out so that employees know how long or short their lunch can be and how to report it on a timecard if they are hourly.
- Phone rules. Is it okay to have personal conversation at their desk? What about texting during the workday? Posting on social media at work? What are your cell phone policies? Do you have any at all? This is something to consider adding to the handbook.
- Training Payback. To prevent employees from leaving directly after you’ve spent money training them, you can institute a mandatory payback clause. This is a great practice for mid-size businesses who would suffer from the loss of the cost of training more than most employers.
- Work from home policy. Do your employees have the option to work from home any days of the week? If so, how many?
It’s worthwhile to consider updating your handbook every year as things change in culture, politics and general workforce expectations. In a fast-changing and increasingly flexible world, strong guidelines are a must for employers who want to avoid legal issues and provide firm boundaries and a safe, inviting work environment.