Do you have an employee handbook? If so, have you updated it recently?

Regardless of how large your company is, if you are not the sole employee, you unequivocally need an employee handbook. Handbooks serve as a reference for new employees to get to know the workplace and for longer-term employees to check up on company policies. They define your company culture by teaching employees your mission and core values while establishing workplace rules. Handbooks even function as legal references, including regulations that encourage fairness and respect in the workplace.

Having a handbook in the back of your desk drawer that you tossed together in 2015 is not enough. To ensure all your employees are current on the company procedures, you must update your employee handbook and provide appropriate training on it annually.

Here are four fundamental reasons that you should update your employee handbook this year:

Laws and regulations change frequently 

Federal, state, and local laws are continuously evolving, and it is your responsibility as a business owner to stay in the know and promptly communicate them to your employees. For example, there have recently been changes to scheduling, overtime, and paid time off (PTO).  It’s essential to add new sections when needed, remove clauses that are no longer relevant, and provide more clarity to parts that sound vague.

One of the most costly mistakes small business owners make is overlooking the urgency around compliance with employment regulations and laws —  don’t assume that particular laws and rules don’t apply since you are a small company.

Although some federal regulations don’t apply until you have over 15 employees, when it comes to compliance, small businesses are responsible for many of the same laws that regulate large corporations. If your company is audited or gets into legal trouble with an employee and you are found non-compliant, there could be severe monetary — not to mention reputational — damages.

Having written policies signed by employees can protect you from legal trouble

Company policies outline how you want your employees to act and set ground rules for what is and is not considered tolerable behavior. As your company grows and evolves, you should review and update standards and policies relating to company culture, so the message you send to your employees remains fluid and widely-known.

The policies in your employee handbook should include everything from dress code and work hours to PTO and social media policies. If you need to apprehend an employee for being consistently late to work, but your handbook doesn’t state the required working hours, there could be a problem.

There are also particular federal enforced workplace policies that you should include in your employee handbook, such as:

  • Equal Employment
  • Anti-Harassment
  • Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

If you encounter legal trouble, such as an EEOC complaint, you can point to the policies in your employee handbook as documentation. It may not safeguard you from being sued, but pointing out that you have clear, concise, and up-to-date policies will not hurt.

Update your language so it sounds conversational

Given that your employee handbook is chock full of valuable information, it should be engaging and easy to understand. This task can be tricky, given that federal laws, regulations, and policies are often full of legal jargon. Make sure your handbook can be easily comprehended but is also meticulous enough to protect you judicially.

Even though there are many rules to include, try to make your handbook fun and motivating by adding unique and entertaining company details.  Fully immerse your employees in the company values by sharing the mission statement, quotes from the CEO, and current organizational news.

Once you think you’ve got the language down, try reading your handbook out loud, or better yet, have one of your employees review it. Does it make sense? Can they easily restate it in their own words? Your voice should remain consistent throughout the entire handbook, and it should be easily digestible. After all, it doesn’t serve anyone if the information doesn’t stick.

Make onboarding easier

As mentioned above, you should be utilizing your company handbook as your primary way of communicating your expectations to employees. If it’s current, it can be the perfect guide for onboarding new employees — and it should be one of the primary elements you provide them.

As much as you focus on benefits and vacation policies, spend equal time emphasizing your people. Use the handbook as a place to talk about how you appreciate your employees and how you prioritize learning opportunities and growth development. Your employee handbook should be inspiring for new hires to read and should motivate them to hit the ground running.

Your employee handbook is also a place for you to set clear behavioral expectations, including the attitude you want your employees to bring to work every day and what you expect from each person. With regular updates, your employee handbook can even go as far as to specify when your team participates in meetings and off-site work activities, such as volunteer work.

Update your employee handbook today

Remember, every time you update laws, regulations, or policies within your company, redistribute copies to your employees and require signatures acknowledging understanding. Another significant feature to keep in mind is that employment laws differ from state and even city, so if you have employees in different locations, you may need different versions of your handbook.

It’s a smart idea to assign one person (if possible, an HR manager) the task of keeping track of updating your employee handbook on an annual basis, or as soon as employment laws change.  If you don’t have the resources to stay current with tax laws or local state regulations, consider outsourcing an HR team for support.

Outsourced HR firms have the most reliable resources and expertise available to stay current on the latest regulations, so you don’t need to. They will work alongside you to develop and execute plans that ensure both leadership and employees are compliant with company and government policies. With more than 50 years of HR experience, Your HR Partner is the top outsourced HR firm in Dallas, Texas, talk to us today!