Client Login

Employee Handbooks - Dangers Lurk Within

Many companies, especially smaller businesses, do not update their employee handbook on a regular basis. That introduces risk to the business because the handbook may not be keeping up with current laws, like the MA sick time law or potential repeals/changes to laws like the ACA (Affordable Care Act) or the Overtime law.

Surprisingly, many companies still do not have a policy governing new technologies, such as social media and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), which have generated numerous lawsuits and pose data security risks, respectively. Once you have a handbook, it’s equally important to properly communicate these policies to your employees and enforce them.

Failure to review and adjust the employee handbook on a frequent basis can lead to employee confusion, penalties and fines – and even lawsuits.

Employee Handbooks and the New Overtime Law (on hold)

Pending changes to the FLSA (new overtime law), which are now on hold pending court action, prompted many companies to re-evaluate and change their compensation structures and take a closer look at their exempt vs non-exempt classifications, job descriptions and employee handbook policy that covers the usage of smartphones and laptops in performing “off premises” and “non standard office-hour” work. These were good changes, despite the law being put on hold.

Companies that wish to prevent or restrict overtime hours by non-exempt employees need to develop a specific policy regarding the use of these devices, communicate this policy to employees and vigorously enforce the policy.

Employee Handbooks Not Just for the Big Companies

An employee handbook is recommended for any size business because it is the foundation for the workforce, sets the expectations and culture for new hires, and meets your obligation to effectively communicate policies and procedures to your employees.

An updated employee handbook makes it easier to enforce your rules, and discipline employees for failing to observe those rules. How can you discipline someone for a policy that doesn’t exist or for a procedure that is not documented?

You’ll also have a more solid footing if a disgruntled employee involves you in a court case. The absence of a handbook can spell disaster for your company.

Employee Handbooks Need to be Customized

You might be tempted to take a shortcut and download a sample employee handbook template from the internet, but that’s risky too. Employee Handbooks should be unique and reflect your organization’s policies and procedures.

Most companies turn to HR experts like MassPay and/or a Labor Law Attorney to ensure that they are in compliance with all federal, state and local laws and that they are not discriminating against protected classes.

Employee Handbooks Under Government Scrutiny

Employee handbooks have come under attack by the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) and fines have been levied against companies for:

  • Discriminatory language
  • Vagueness
  • Outdated laws
  • Missing policies
  • Policies that are difficult to understand
  • How policies are enforced

5 “Must Haves” for Your Employee Handbook

At the very least, you should ensure that these five items are addressed in your employee handbook:

  1. Employment at Will
  2. Non-Harassment Policy
  3. Social Media Policy
  4. Standards of Conduct
  5. Acknowledgement & Signature pages

Based on our work with numerous clients, it would also be wise to include a policy for inclement weather procedures (attendance expectations, compensation, call-in/notification) and the use of company-issues devices (laptops & cell phones) or BYOD (use of the employees own devices) for business.

There are many other dangers that can lurk within the employee handbook, but reviewing your policies more frequently and double-checking to make sure these “must haves” are included is a great first step to protect your workforce and your company.

About MassPay

MassPay’s HR Services provides businesses with guidance on HR and Payroll issues, helps them set strategy for growth, provides owners and managers with training & coaching on new legislation and management topics, creates/updates the employee handbook, reviews job descriptions, and keeps businesses in compliance with wage & hour, ACA, time off and other legislation, reducing their risk of fines, penalties & lawsuits and helping them to become better employers.