If you’ve taken the steps to create an employee handbook, you might think it’s something you can set in place and forget. But your business is ever-growing and changing and as it evolves, the guidelines put in place need to change along with it. That’s why a periodic review of your employee handbook is necessary to make sure it reflects the company and its culture, plus compliance with any new pertinent regulations.
It should be noted that any handbook does not replace your employee agreements, and in some companies, this handbook covers employee and contractor conduct. It’s important to involve a lawyer with not only the creation but the review of these important handbooks. Here are the top five reasons you should regularly examine and update your employee handbook.
1. Changes to company values or culture
The natural course of business may highlight the need to add new policies to your handbook as outlined below. However, factors within and outside the business could impact operations and also demonstrate the inadequacy of the company’s current values and culture code. The outlined culture and values in the handbook are usually somewhat timeless, but in the early days of a new company, they can’t take into account the full dynamic of a business and its team and may require fine-tuning to match both your own goals and the company’s mission.
2. Updating and adding additional policies
Your employee handbook should represent your company and its culture as of today, not as a reflection of where it was two or five or more years ago. Hopefully, you endeavored to create a thorough handbook the first time out, but every business encounters new and unexpected developments. Some challenges may require new policies that you hadn’t initially planned for in earlier editions of the handbook.
Rather than relying upon an ad hoc system of written and unwritten rules, ensure that everything is captured in one handbook. However, it’s important to strike a balance between having a stagnant or dated handbook and constantly replacing portions of the same. Unless there is a legal reason to publish a change, update the handbook on a regular schedule to include new policies and procedures.
3. Changes to state or federal employment laws (or other laws)
Laws regarding employment are often updated or rewritten, or new ones added, and as a business, you are obliged to stay on top of those changes to ensure compliance. Many businesses have both state and federal laws, plus county or city ordinances that impact operations. Similarly, you want to make sure that your employees are equally aware of those changes so they can be equally compliant and can hold management accountable as well.
There are also health and safety regulations that may be particular to your industry to consider, and that you also want your employees to be aware of as they go about their work. Again, this is an area where expert help from a lawyer is needed.
4. Creating remote work policies
More and more companies are taking advantage of technological advances to create a workforce that is at least partially, if not fully, working from home. And while some of the rules in place in your existing handbook may still apply, if it has not been updated in the past 12 months, there are enough differences in the work-from-home experience to dictate new policies that need to be put into writing. Some topics include:
- What are the working hours for remote employees?
- How are you handling device and email security?
- How are you conducting meetings without the benefit of face-to-face interactions?
- Will you provide any equipment or support for employees? For contractors?
All these and more are considerations that you need to account for lest you have employees each operating on their own plan.
5. Ensure employees have read and understand the handbook
It’s perhaps not a reason itself, but a benefit of updating your employee handbook is the opportunity to present and/or redistribute it to your team to ensure they all read and review the material enclosed. After all, your employee handbook is only useful if your employees know what’s in it, and follow the guidelines and policies. Creating a new version of your handbook is a great opportunity to make sure that every employee has access to a copy of the handbook.
Some companies even do annual updates on culture and policies for existing employees and almost all provide this handbook as part of new employee onboarding. A final note, having employees acknowledge that they read and understood the contents may help supervisors beyond day-to-day operations, for example in a dispute or disciplinary proceeding.
Most important for any employee handbook is that it is current and comprehensive for both employees and employers. That’s why it’s important for any employer to work with a lawyer to review a handbook, and with LegalShield, you can be connected with a provider lawyer within 24 hours for your latest project that requires legal help. Learn more about how a LegalShield plan can benefit you.