Jul 7, 2016 | Written by: Share|
A poorly written, outdated, or inconsistent employee manual can hurt your company and lead to potential litigation down the line. The most common mistakes to avoid are the following:
1. Adopting a form handbook.
It is becoming more and more common to see pre-printed “form” handbooks for sale online that adopt a “one size fits all” mentality. Falling into this pitfall is something every small employer should avoid for several reasons. Initially, your form handbook will most likely include policies and/or promises that you will never be able to keep. You never want to offer something to your employees that does not fit within your corporate environment. Additionally, many of the form handbooks on the market do not adhere to law that is current and/or relevant to your particular industry or jurisdiction.
2. Including too much detail.
Avoid getting bogged down with in-depth detail with respect to your policies and procedures. You want to touch on all of the relevant policies and expectations that you may have as an employer, however, stay away from legalese and overly specific information that may not even pertain to your employees. If you feel that there are certain procedures and/or policies aimed at upper level management only, keep a separate policy manual for upper level management, as long as the policies do not also pertain to other employees.
Many times an employer will adopt an employee handbook that is wholly inconsistent with prior company policies and/or other company documents. This will merely create confusion and will not give your employees any clarity with respect to what is expected of them or what policies your company has adopted. Additionally, inconsistent policies will likely create an impediment if a discrimination claim is ever filed against the company, as it may appear that different policies apply to different employees. You want to avoid this at all costs and have a consistent policy that applies to all employees across the board.
4. Overlooking an “at will” disclaimer.
It is important that every employee manual and/or handbook contain an “at will” disclaimer explaining that the nature of the employment relationship is “at will”. Have your employees sign the disclaimer acknowledging that the company can terminate their employment at any time and for any reason, absent a reason contrary to law.
5. Failing to circulate your policy on an annual basis.
It is important that you circulate your policy on an annual basis, and give a copy of the handbook to each new employee at the time they are hired. Many employers adopt new employee handbooks but never disburse them, or fail to circulate the handbooks on an annual basis. It is important that your employees know what to expect and are given yearly updates with respect to the policy and/or any potential changes that have been made to the policy. Furthermore, it is also important that your employees sign an acknowledgment each year that they received a copy of the handbook. These acknowledgments should be kept in the employees’ personnel files, to refer to if and when a question ever arises about whether or not an employee obtained or was provided with a copy of the employee handbook.