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Are Your Handbooks Up To Date?

An employee handbook is an important tool to effectively communicate information regarding your organization’s policies, practices and employee benefits. A well-written handbook provides expectations for your employees and describes what they can expect from your organization.

While the policies outlined in your handbook will reflect your organization’s own unique culture, it is important to consider federal, state and local laws that may affect your business when drafting your employee handbook. The employee handbook is the single most important internal document that lays out the policies of your organization to your employees.  As a result, the creation and maintenance of the handbook should not be treated as a one and done project; the handbook should be considered a living document and should be attended to regularly. It is important to ensure that your handbook is updated at least annually and that your employment counsel reviews the handbook before it is distributed to employees.

As we enter the fourth quarter of the year, employers should begin to determine which policies may have been impacted by legislative amendments and/or new laws as this may result in policy updates or additions for 2021. Aside from compliance related updates, organizations that have experienced cultural changes should review their handbook to ensure it reflects the way things are in the present day. The handbook should be aligned with how your organization operates. Another consideration which may trigger updates is a change in your organization’s size (number of employees), as certain laws are based on employer size. For example, a private employer who had 40 employees and has grown to 50 employees will need to include a Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy in their handbook. In contrast, employers who have experienced downsizing may find that certain laws are no longer applicable and may need to remove certain policies from the handbook.

Employers should also consider updating outdated terminology, including technological and gender specific language. References which are made to outdated technologies such as palm pilots and MP3 players or outdated tech platforms such as MySpace, Friendster and Vine should be made current and reflect the times in which the organization is operating. In addition, employers should consider becoming gender neutral as reference to he or she/his or hers may not reflect the gender identity of all employees.

Lastly, employers operating in multiple states have the additional challenge of considering changes or the introduction of state and/or local laws for employees who work outside of New York.

How HR Works Can Help

Creating and updating an employee handbook can be overwhelming and expose employers to unnecessary risk. The policies offered by HR Works reflect the latest federal and state workplace compliance guidance and human resource best practices. HR Works can assist employers in developing a compliant employee handbook, in addition to providing annual updates. Our handbook service covers all 50 states, so clients who are in multiple states can receive state specific addendums to accompany their handbook.

As an added benefit, our Virtual Helpline Service can offer guidance to employers related to federal and state employment laws based on employer size and a host of other compliance related topics and HR best practice recommendations. Clients who are active Virtual Helpline subscribers receive our annual legal updates, regardless of whether HR Works developed the organization’s handbook.

Employers who are not current handbook clients or do not subscribe to the Virtual Helpline and would like more information on either of these services or information on HR Works’ other service offerings may contact for a referral to a HR Works Business Development team member.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.