By Guest Contributor Robert Parks of Priority Payments South Florida
Most people take the employee handbook for granted. In reality the handbook is the single most important tool for new hires as well as current employees. The employee handbook relays important information such as the history of the company, mission statement, policies, procedures, benefits and legal compliance issues on the state and local level. As our society becomes more and more litigious the properly formatted and executed employee handbook could expose or protect the company in discrimination or other legal claims. A small amount of time now reviewing and updating your handbook could prevent a large settlement later.
It is recommended that the employee handbook gets reviewed at least once a year. An updated handbook needs to reflect current laws and regulations and should adapt to changing business practices as well. So, what are the basics to handbook management and what are the common mistakes?
The first item should be the acknowledgement and at-will form. This states the employee relationship and receipt of the policies. At-will employment should be referenced several times in the document including under the disciplinary and termination sections. It is vital that all employees are aware of how policies can be altered and who sets the standard.
In the current climate it is important to list all current anti-discrimination, immigration and harassment policies. One area to reference when preparing your handbook is the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and current federal guidelines for immigration compliance.
Throughout your handbook your policies should reference applicable state and federal laws and guidelines and a human resource expert should be consulted for any areas that may cause confusion. This document is the first and last protection for you and your employees and should always reflect current laws.
Now comes the meat and potatoes of any employee handbook document: policies and procedures. The important thing to remember when building your policies is to be specific and clear. There should be no vague terms or steps. Each policy should be spelled out in its entirety with the specific ramifications and steps involved. The disciplinary policy is one of the most vital steps. Do you have warnings? How many do you have before written notice and what violations cause immediate termination? In the computer age your policies on cell phones, passwords and documents could be one of the most important functions of the handbook. Always remember when building your policies that this document can be used as your defense or as evidence against you. A properly functioning handbook could make the difference between victory and a large settlement.
The employee handbook is not a document to be taken lightly; it is the lifeblood of your company. A well thought out handbook shows your team that you are looking out for them and helps to develop teamwork and moral. Conversely a poor document can tear a team apart and cause unnecessary turmoil. When crafting your employee handbook you should always consult a human resource expert who has the knowledge and skill to create a well rounded document. As the environment for the twentieth century changes your company must evolve or become extinct.
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