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Top 10 Policies You Need in Your Employee Handbook

‘Tis the Season – not the Christmas season, but for us it is the season to review our Employee Handbook.  We like to do a quarterly review; we look for updates, make sure we are compliant, and add any new policies that we deemed necessary to add to the handbook.  We are also getting ready to hire a new employee and we want to make sure we put our best foot forward.  Whether you do a review once a year, or once a month, here are the Top 10 policies you should have in your Employee Handbook according to our friends at ThinkHR.  If you don’t have an Employee Handbook – I’m not judging, but I am starting to sweat a little bit – get started with this list of policies.  An Employee Handbook, can help drive culture, makes sure everyone is on the same page, and can save a lot of hassle down the road if policies are spelled out for your employees.

If you have questions about how to build a handbook, give us a call, we can help!

  1. At-will employment: You can destroy the at-will employment relationship through promises made in an employee handbook. Including this policy reinforces the at-will nature of employment. It should also state that the handbook is not a contract and may change at any time.
  2. Equal employment opportunity: This policy should comply with national (Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, etc.), state, and local anti-discrimination laws. It should include protections based on race, religion, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, military service, and other protected categories that may include marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or transgender status.
  3. Anti-harassment: Your harassment policy should be comprehensive, effective, and realistic. It should define harassment, set forth avenues for reporting it up through the executive level or board of directors if the boss is the alleged harasser, and offer a degree of confidentiality and support. It also needs to include an anti-retaliation statement. It’s important that this policy reach beyond sexual harassment to include people in every protected category.
  4. Pay and hours of work: Your pay practices, including when the workweek begins and ends, payroll periods, and deductions from pay should be included. Your policy should include your overtime rules when non-exempt employees are entitled to work overtime and any pre-approval procedures that are required.
  5. Attendance and tardiness: Employers may use a range of procedures for attendance, but it’s important to lay out your company’s guidelines and expectations for how much notice is required, who to report absences or tardiness to, and disciplinary actions that may be taken if procedures are not followed.
  6. Safety: The safety section of the handbook should affirm your commitment to employees to provide a safe and healthy work environment. It will vary by industry but should align with OSHA requirements that apply to your company, including health and safety policies, emergency preparedness plans, and equipment safety and use guidelines.
  7. Standards of conduct: Employees look to the organization to provide them with the “rules of the road” for behavior as a company team member. Policies should include organizational rules that help employees understand what is expected of them while at work and what behaviors may result in disciplinary action.
  8. Internet and electronic communication: A well-drafted policy will remind employees that your company’s computers and networks exist for business purposes and prohibit using work computers for specific personal activities. It should clearly state that there is no expectation of privacy on work computers and that security is not guaranteed.
  9. Family and medical leave: Employers subject to FMLA must inform employees of their rights under the act, including eligibility. The policy should state whether employees need to exhaust paid time off before taking FMLA leave, that benefits will be continued during leave, and that the employee may resume the same or equivalent job when they return. It should also include other requirements your company may have, such as medical certification or notice requirements. Employers should include state and local leave rules that may apply.
  10. Military leave: This policy should inform employees of their right to unpaid military leave under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, including their right to elect to continue health plan coverage for up to 24 months.

Here are some additional policies that you may want to consider updating while you’re at it…

  • Marijuana in the workplace
  • Anti-nepotism/dating
  • Smoking
  • Personnel file access
  • Discipline process
  • Personal electronics at work
  • Violence in the workplace
  • Dress code and grooming
  • Social media
  • Leave-related restrictions