The employment landscape changes frequently, as such employers are encouraged to review and update their Employee Handbook every year. Employers need to be conscientious of the significant number of legal changes on the federal, state and local level that occurred this year. Therefore, it is critical for an employer to review, amend and properly update its handbook for 2018 to reflect the latest legal requirements.
Employee Handbooks are the backbone of an organization’s culture. More than just policies, these guiding principles should tell the story of who you are and describe the motivations and priorities that drive your business. Beyond the necessary legal updates, we also advise that during this review you evaluate your content and tone to ensure it continues to reflect your culture and leadership practices.
Below are 6 critical policies employers should review and update in their Employee Handbook:
1. Sexual Harassment Policies. With the recent rise in sexual harassment claims, employers should ensure your policy emphasizes zero-tolerance on sexual harassment and gender inequality. Additionally, the policy should clearly outline the process to bring forward instances of harassment.
2. Employment Opportunity (EEO) Policies. Many states have enacted laws this year providing employment protections to new and emerging protected classes and expanding the coverage of equal opportunity laws. Maintaining updated policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on membership in a protected class is critical from a compliance perspective.
3. Review Reasonable Accommodation Policies. Several states have enacted or expanded reasonable accommodations for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and for those with marijuana prescriptions in 2017. Your Handbook should expressly comply with these requirements.
4. Comply with New and Updated Leave Laws. States and cities remain very focused on passing paid sick leave laws and family and medical leave laws. For example, Colorado state law requires employers to offer up to 3-days of unpaid leave for instances associated with domestic abuse.
5. Safe Driving Policies. Employers must remember that in an increasingly mobile society, employees are always on the go while still needing to remain connected for business and personal reasons. An employer should make sure enforce safe driving policies that comply with state law, such as Colorado’s state law prohibiting texting while driving.
6. Amend Smoke-Free Workplace Policies. The increased presence of e-cigarettes and tobacco substitutes has forced employers to update their smoke-free workplace policies to ensure the workplace is comfortable and pleasant for all. It is advisable for any smoke-free workplace policy to also specifically prohibit the use of e-cigarettes.
It’s not enough to just update the contents each year. Employers must make sure employees are aware of the policies and have had adequate opportunity to review and comprehend them. Employers are encouraged to provide employees a copy of the Handbook upon hire and after every update. It is a best practice to always have them sign an acknowledgement upon receipt.
Don’t have a Handbook? It may be time for your organization to build one. It’s just like building a culture of accountability. Your Handbook sets expectations – both employer and employee expectations. When you use your Handbook consistently, trust is build and culture will thrive.