As your business grows and you employ a number of people in different positions, you’ll want to consider putting together (and then periodically updating) an employee handbook. This document should be clear, well written, easy to search, and cover a number of different aspects about how your company’s policies will be applied. A handbook not only helps employees understand what is expected of them, but it also protects you in any potential future disagreement with your employees. Having clearly-written policies, which are then properly enforced, can be an integral defense in a labor dispute, and can even help prevent such disputes from arising in the first place.
What Should an Employee Handbook Cover?
The first step in crafting an employee handbook is sitting down to determine what, exactly, your handbook needs to cover. Usual inclusions in a handbook are things like information about expected employee behavior, pay and benefit guidelines, sick leave policies, and background on how disputes between employees will be investigated and handled. You also want your employee handbook to accurately reflect your company and its culture. If transparency is a big part of your company’s culture, for example, the policies you outline in your handbook should be crafted to emphasize transparency.
Additionally, there are both federal and state laws that govern what your handbook needs to cover. Required subjects can include family medical leave policies, equal employment and non-discrimination policies, and workers’ compensation policies. Because these required sections are state, industry, and even company-size specific, basing your handbook off of some other company’s handbook or off of a template could easily get you into trouble. To avoid this risk, you should consult with an experienced employment attorney, who can customize your employee handbook for your own personal business needs.
Can You Change Your Employee Handbook?
Your employee handbook can and should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. (Often, your business attorney will include a clause in the handbook that explicitly states this exact thing.) At a bare minimum, you will likely want to change your handbook as new situations arise in your company, as new technology becomes common, and as new laws come into effect. For instance, this year, any existing handbooks for California companies should be updated to reflect minimum wage increases (the California minimum wage was recently raised to $11 for employers with 25 or fewer employees and $12 for employers with more than 25), as well as to reflect the new requirement that California employers with 5 or more employees provide sexual harassment training.
In addition, as a smaller business, you may not have concerns right now about employee cell phone use or what they’re writing online. However, as your business grows and brings on new staff, you’ll need to consider policies about everything from talking to journalists to reporting potential legal concerns, and to update your employee handbook to outline those policies.
The team of experienced employment attorneys at Chase Law Group, P.C., can help you determine what is required by law to go into your company’s employee handbook and craft a customized document that properly protects you in case of a dispute. Call (310) 545-7700 to schedule a consultation today.