Is it Time to Update Your Employee Handbook?
4 Reasons to Schedule a Handbook Review
We recommend that you review your company’s employee handbook annually to ensure that it is still an accurate document that reflects your current company values, expectations, and policies. An accurate handbook should be concise, compliant with state, local and federal law, easy to understand, and reflect the culture of your organization.
How do you know if it’s time to update your handbook? Here are four indicators that you may be overdue for a review.
1) You don’t have a handbook!
For new hires, your employee handbook is an introduction to company policies, procedures, and culture. It provides a first impression of your business and is an important resource to be able to refer back to as a basis for understanding and consistently adhering to organizational practices.
For the employer, it provides legal evidence that the company’s policies are consistent with and encourages compliance with employment laws. As we continue to see growth of the #MeToo movement and other social justice issues, it is more important than ever to have strong policies around anti-harassment and reporting procedures.
2) It’s been more than a year since your last review.
Local and federal laws can change often and it’s important for your handbook to reflect the most current information in order to remain compliant. Some of the important updates we saw in 2020 include changes to harassment policy requirements under the Oregon Workplace Fairness Act (OWFA) and protected leaves under Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA). These acts outline very specific actions that must be taken by businesses owners, but not all aspects of a good handbook are explicitly defined in the same way.
Though not mandatory, we also recommend as a best practice having a clear:
- Infectious Disease Control Policy
- Reduction in Work Force Statement
- Safety Program
- Work-From-Home Policy and Procedure
- PTO and Leave Policies
- Continuation of Benefits Policy
3) You’re using a generic template that doesn’t apply to your specific industry or company.
A handbook template can be a great starting point for a new business, but if you don’t customize it to include specific laws and policies that are relevant to your industry, location, and unique business practices your company could be at risk.
Missing, ambiguous, or irrelevant policies are confusing to employees and can open your business up to at best simple misunderstandings and at worst potential lawsuits.
4) Your harassment policy is too vague or doesn’t include the new requirements that went into effect in October 2020.
As mentioned above, changes to the OWFA that went into effect last Fall include specific requirements that must be included in your anti-harassment policy. In addition to those requirements, it’s more important than ever to have a detailed and inclusive policy available to all employees.
An anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy should detail more than just sexual harassment. A comprehensive policy will also include discrimination against age, disability, race, gender, sexual identity or orientation, religious beliefs, or ethnicity.
A good policy will outline the different types of harassment, how employees should report experiencing or witnessing harassment, and notify employees that all reports of harassment with be addressed and investigated.