The onboarding process for new employees is essential to any successful business, and knowing when to seek legal guidance on crafting an employee handbook can be critical. Educating team members about your company policies, workplace expectations and informing them of their rights and obligations as an employee can make a difference in company culture and protect you from potential lawsuits. Additionally, human resources (HR) training is essential in establishing a highly functional and ethical workplace. Developing an effective employee handbook and implementing legal HR training is an important strategy for protecting you and your employees.
Why Is It Good To Consult With an Attorney Before Making an Employee Handbook?
While having an employee handbook is not required by Ohio or federal law, handbooks provide critical information to employees and hold businesses accountable to federal and state regulations. In addition to containing company-specific policies and procedures, the employee handbook should also clarify the legal rights of all employed individuals. A handbook should be compliant with all state and federal labor laws and include a clear company policy statement to protect its team members and the business.
While an employee handbook should primarily educate your team members about company policies and procedures, it also serves as a document that protects the business and its assets. A handbook should be a reliable tool that employees can utilize in their orientation and reference throughout their employment period. Due to this business management tool’s critical nature and the legal implications of a poorly written employee handbook, it is essential to consult with a lawyer before incorporating the employee handbook into your onboarding process.
Important to Consider:
What Are Some Mistakes Employers Make When Creating Employee Handbooks?
One of the first mistakes that employers make when implementing employee handbooks is not making the handbook accessible due to complex language or overly detailed policies. While a handbook should include all applicable policies, it should also be a reliable reference tool and establish clear rules and regulations without burdening new team members with too much information or legalese.
Similarly, using a boilerplate employee handbook without catering the contents to your particular business practices can create harm and add confusion instead of protecting both your business and employees. Employee handbooks should be specific to the company, and the policies should be tailored to reflect those unique qualities.
There should be a healthy level of trust among personnel and general respect for policies, procedures and company leadership in an effective workforce. Therefore, an employee handbook should not attempt to legislate every potential behavior in the workplace. Attempting to do so may deter team members from reading the document and deteriorate positive interaction between low and high-level staff.
Finally, building in opportunities for handbook training and interpretation is critical to ensuring that all team members are aware of business values, review the policies and voluntarily create a positive company culture. Legal HR training can help mitigate the risk associated with mistakes that expose a company to legal risk.
What to Include:
What is typically included in an employee handbook?
Every employee handbook will vary in policies and procedures based on the industry and size of the company. First and foremost, the company mission, vision, history and core values are often among the first elements in a training manual or handbook. Additionally, a company should include any pertinent details to daily operations, including the use of private employee information, required documentation, overtime pay or incident reporting.
While a handbook should be detailed enough to explain a business’s critical functioning elements, it can also be essential to remain concise and clear. Refrain from using language that is difficult to understand and try not to include unnecessary details that might detract from the key points. Businesses that utilize a training manual or employee handbook should ensure that the information is accurate and lawful, and that it adequately reflects the values and practices implemented within the workplace.
It is also standard practice to include policies that cover:
- Equal opportunity
- At-will employment
- Attendance and leave of absence
- Health and safety
- Employee benefits
- Discipline and performance
- Meals and rest periods
An effective HR professional will know how to design and implement internal guidelines to mitigate complaints and protect employees and employers. Consulting with KJK’s Employment Law attorneys and attending corporate HR legal training will further equip your human resources department to effectively approach compliance, employee law and regulatory business practices.
How often should the employee hanbook be reviewed?
A poorly written or out-of-date employee handbook can often be worse for companies than not having a handbook at all. If a business maintains a training manual or employee handbook, it is critical to keep the document up to date and relevant to existing practices. It is not uncommon for policies and procedures to change over the span of a year, so it can be critical to review essential documents annually. The legal professionals at KJK can conduct a thorough review of the contents and validate that state and federal laws are accurate and up-to-date.
Important to Know:
Employee Handbook Frequently Asked Questions
Why should an employer develop and distribute an employee handbook?
Employee handbooks are a great way to provide a large amount of information to employees. Specifically, handbooks can include clear expectations for employees during their employment, showcase key information regarding employee benefits, and help ensure an employer’s compliance with relevant federal and state laws. Employee handbooks can be an essential tool of communication between employee and employer and are oftentimes a first step to defending an employee’s legal claim against a company.
How often should a business review and update its employee handbook?
It is good practice to review and update your employee handbook on an annual basis. At this time, employers should review new state or federal laws relating to the employment relationship and determine if any of their policies or procedures have been revised or become outdated. If so, employers should update their employee handbook and communicate the changes to employees.
Should I have employees sign an acknowledgement that they have reviewed and received the company’s employee handbook?
Yes; employers should require that all employees sign an acknowledgement form upon their hire. It may also be beneficial to have employees sign new or updated acknowledgment forms when the employee handbook is updated (see previous question). While not specifically required under the law, these acknowledgment forms are proof that the employee received the employee handbook, and it makes it difficult for an employee to claim that he/she was not aware of its contents.
Should I provide training to employees?
It is a good idea to train employees on the ins and outs of the workplace. This can often lead to improved work ethic or engagement and better work product from employees. It is also a good idea to provide sexual harassment or equal opportunity training to employees on a frequent basis.