Common myths about employee handbooks
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Employers are not required to have a handbook. That is true. State and federal regulations do, however, require employers to provide a variety of information to their employees.
The easiest way to do this is often via some sort of handbook. Yet, for those organizations without a handbook, it can be easy to find excuses not to create one.
Here are a few myths about handbooks and the corresponding reasons why it is a good idea for every employer to have one.
No handbook is better than an outdated handbook.
While I am not a lawyer, I have seen lawyers cringe at this comment. In non-legal language, the reason this belief is so troubling is because it is so untrue.
In many cases, even an outdated handbook is better than nothing because it shows the organization’s intent to follow the law. It also gives both the organization and the employees a starting point for addressing challenging situations.
And, while it may seem in California that employment law changes twice per year, many states and the federal government are not as quick to change. Thus, while one or two policies may need updated, the majority may not. Thus, no need to throw the baby out with the bath water.
We are too small to be subject to any state or federal laws.
If there is more than one person and money is involved, it is helpful to have written rules of play. In this case, even small employers should have some sort of handbook.
While it does not need to be 60 pages of legalese, a consolidated compilation of required notices and a guide explaining organizational expectations can be helpful in a number of ways.
Specifically, it can help smaller employers establish a more professional culture. It can help new organizations be better organized. And it can help startups or other organizations that want to remain flexible, progressive or out-of-the-box, codify that culture and how employees can keep it that way.
Handbooks are expensive and no one will read it anyway.
One of the first things most employees do is check the handbook for time off policies. Then, dress code, hours and pay, and performance review information.
Whether they pay attention to at-will, open-door, or anti-harassment policies may be up for debate. The important thing is that all the policies that may interest an employee at any time during their career are located in one place.
Knowing that reference tool is there is important to employees, whether they read it or not.
Further, with the proliferation of online tools, helpful lawyers and HR consultants, the price of handbooks is very competitive and much less expensive than the cost of addressing even one issue associated with not having one. For example, if an employee complains to a government agency about harassment because there is no anti-harassment policy explaining their complaint options, the employer will very likely spend a lot more money addressing the claim than they would have creating a handbook.
The bottom line is that there is no excuse not to have a handbook. In addition to the legal reasons, it also makes the organization look professional, gives employees a great reference for quick answers and can help articulate the culture.
Start with simply combining the required notices, adding some rules of conduct and a letter from leadership about culture and you will quickly and easily be off to an excellent start.
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