October 10, 2023

Scary HR Mistakes Part 1: No Employee Handbook

What’s The Deal With An Employee Handbook?

In the spirit of Halloween, we are introducing a series of posts highlighting “Scary HR Mistakes” that companies are frequently making. The first series explores the frightening consequences that happen to a company when they neglect to have an employee handbook. I’m sure you’ve heard the old trope before: Fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. This could not ring truer in the employment law context, especially as it concerns employee handbooks. A handbook will let employees know what the company expects from them in turn. It basically makes sure everyone is on the same page, literally.

Top Mistakes Companies Make with Employee Handbooks

1. Not Getting Help

In today’s DIY world, many companies are assuming they can print off a template they find on the Internet for their handbook. They could not be more wrong. A handbook should always be looked over by either a lawyer or an HR professional. The purpose of having a handbook is to advise employees as to their rights under both state and federal laws.

2. Getting Lazy

Periodically review your handbook – usually once a year – and update it as necessary. By doing this, the company will be fully aware of the requirements under the law, ensuring that they will not be in violation of any rules and regulations. Hopefully, this will prevent any complaints or problems with their employees. It will also comfort employees to know that their company strives to be compliant with the law. Failing to do this could mean that your handbook doesn’t comply with the law or has outdated references to employee rights.

3. Making it too long. Or too Short

You really want to Goldilocks your handbook. It should be a clear statement of the company’s policies, and procedures in all aspects. This includes requesting time off for a vacation and filing a complaint about a superior’s misconduct. If there are ever any questions about how to handle a problem, management should have a copy of the handbook nearby. This way they can be sure they are following the procedure outlined by the company. But, you want your employees to use and review this and not be so menacing so as to render it useless. Feeling overwhelmed? See point 1.

4. Hiding the Ball

No, not literally – that would be strange. The handbook should provide resources to their employees if they want to file complaints or get answers to any questions they may have. If the company has its own human resources department, you should list the contact information for important people. It is better to take care of any disputes in-house. This way, you avoid costly and potentially embarrassing dispute resolutions using a third party, like the EEOC. A handbook should inspire confidence in the employee that their concerns and complaints will be taken seriously and handled in a professional way.

5. Not Handing out the Handbook

One of the best defenses a company has against any future lawsuits is an updated copy of the employee handbook that is available to everyone. If this has been maintained and made available to employees, it will show that the company exercised “reasonable care”. It will also demonstrate with the employee’s signature that they also understood the policies, procedures, and had the chance to ask any questions or address any issues they were not clear on.

A company needs to make sure each new employee gets a packet containing the handbook. The handbook should have a page with a signature that the employee can return which demonstrates that they have received and read it.

To Wrap This All Up…

Drafting a handbook can be daunting, especially if it means including legislation and keeping it updated. Optimum HR can help draft, edit, and update your employee handbooks to ensure they are fully compliant and reliable.

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