Make this your New Year’s resolution: Go through your employee handbook to make sure all the information is accurate and up-to-date, reflects how your organization really does business and fully complies with the law.
It’s important to regularly review and revise employee handbooks because having an out-of-date handbook may be more dangerous than not having one at all. Outdated handbooks can provide ammunition for lawsuits, and language from a bygone era may come back to haunt you.
Establish a regular revision schedule and update your handbook at least once a year—starting now!
Your handbook should explicitly state that you reserve the right to change any provision at any time. Include that language in a conspicuous disclaimer that appears at the beginning of the handbook. Repeat your right to make changes on a receipt form that employees must sign to show that they have received, read and understand the handbook.
Caution: What you exclude from your handbook can be as important as what you include. Employment attorneys recommend leaving out the following:
- Specific procedural instructions to managers
- An arbitration clause
- Details on things that change frequently, such as benefits
- Any policy that won’t seem enforceable
- Any promise you don’t intend to keep.
Keep the language in your handbook simple and the format readable. Use plain English, or else employees won’t bother to read it.
Have your lawyers review a draft of the handbook to make sure it’s a document that can help you avoid legal troubles, not invite them.
Many federal employment laws, including theand ADA, require employers to distribute notices and policies in languages other than English when a “significant portion of workers are not literate in English.”
Advice: When issuing a revised handbook, make sure employees and supervisors discard their old handbooks and sign a receipt for the new one.