The start of a new year is just around the corner. While this often represents an especially busy time of the year for many companies, it is also an ideal time to update your company policies or employee handbook.
Taken together, these materials outline the policies, procedures, and rules that impact your company and its employees. But many companies create these documents and then fail to maintain them and update them when necessary. This can be a grave error.
Employee handbooks cover essential legal topics that, when not handled appropriately, can trickle up and become a massive problem for your company. This includes issues like confidentiality, intellectual property, workplace harassment, drug and alcohol policies, wage and hour violations that lead to the company’s noncompliance and frivolous lawsuits, behavioral and performance expectations, disciplinary action, and issues that impact the safety and security of the workplace, among other things.
Having a current and comprehensive set of policies and an employee handbook can protect both your company and the employees. A failure to make timely updates, even small ones, can put a company in the path of a costly legal battle. There are several crucial reasons why a company’s policies and handbook should be reviewed and updated annually.
- To capture changes to your company. Companies change and grow, and sometimes during this change, it becomes necessary to adopt new policies or tweak existing ones to ensure smooth operations continue. Even if you only experienced staffing changes, it is essential to reflect that in the organizational chart so that everyone is on the same page.
If you fail to update these documents over a prolonged period of time, what frequently happens is that there are two sets of policies – one that is documented but unused and another that undocumented, but remains standard practice. This scenario demonstrates a prime opportunity for legal challenges, and without the documentation, it puts your company in a terrible position. Having an HR services partner can alleviate most of all the issues that come along with outdated or incorrect policy information.
- To capture legal changes. It’s not just your company that changes over time, the environment that you operate in often changes as well. Local, state, and federal laws that have an impact on workplace policies frequently change. As a company expands or grows in size, it is required to follow additional regulations. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that the company has updated policies by the applicable Cities, Counties or States it operates in, offers correct policies applicable to specific employee headcounts and that all the proper and updated policies are documented. If and when a company is ever legally challenged, one of the first documents requested is the employee handbook.
It is your duty to communicate any changes that may impact your organization to your employees to ensure that you are complying with all applicable laws. If you do not update your policies and handbook to reflect these changes, you are failing in this duty.
Topics in which the law frequently changes include the following, among others:
- Minimum wage laws, including the rate in your area
- Paid sick leave laws and correct accruals
- Meal and break regulations
- Accommodations for those with disabilities
- Equal employment and gender pay gaps
- Family Medical Leave policies
- Discrimination policies (2019 included new Transgender rights and hairstyles)
- Regulations affecting overtime
- Drug and alcohol abuse policies
- To account for technological changes. Technology has had a tremendous impact on all industries over the last several decades, and it is expected to continue evolving at an ever-increasing rate. This rapid change has prompted many companies to develop new policies governing the use of e-mail, social media, cell phone usage while at work (including excessive texting, gaming and access for social media during work) and the impact on productivity and safety and other issues pertaining to technology –specifically, as it pertains to driving while texting, making calls or responding to emails. As the lines blur between work and our personal lives, these policies will likely continue to be essential.
In addition to this, security concerns should be a top priority for every company as data breaches can impact companies of any size. They can also be incredibly costly. Since the technology changes incredibly rapidly, it is crucial that you review any relevant policies and update them on an annual basis, at least.
- To ensure all employees understand the policies. Daily operations of a company can be hectic, and in the madness, it may be easy to overlook reviewing policies with new hires or documenting that they received a handbook. Once again, this scenario represents a legal risk.
Updating your policies regularly provides an opportunity for you to hand out new company handbooks and have your employees sign an acknowledgment that they have been received. It also allows you to answer any questions they may have to ensure that everyone is interpreting it correctly. This process can reduce miscommunication and misunderstanding, as well as protect you during any potential litigation.
- To capture anything that may be missing. Sometimes, you don’t know you need a policy until you actually need it. Perhaps you encountered a breastfeeding employee for the first time this year, or you changed the way employees are classified. By updating your policies and handbook regularly, you can add anything that is currently missing. Over time, this leads to better developed and more comprehensive guidance for your organization.
As we wrap up 2019, it’s a great idea to make updating your policies and handbook a top priority. These updates will ensure that you start 2020 off right, with solid guidance for your organization and its employees.
CA HR Services specializes in working with small and medium-sized companies to help develop legal, efficient and appropriate HR processes and procedures that meet state and federal labor law requirements.