Employee Handbooks: More Than Just a Reading Requirement

February 28, 2022

An employee handbook is a valuable written communication tool for employers to provide information and guidance to their workforce on the organization’s mission, values, policies, and procedures. The handbook makes it easier for everyone to understand what is expected of them. It is also helps to reduce an organization’s liability regarding employment practices.

What to Include in an Employee Handbook

The handbook should open with an onboarding welcome letter to all new employees, reflecting the tone of the company’s culture. It should also include the company’s code of conduct, hours of operation (including for those who work off-premises such as home health care aides who are at patients’ homes), attendance, dress code, breaks and meals, payroll procedures, paid vacation, a description of medical insurance and other benefits, technology use, drug use and smoking policies, performance standards and disciplinary procedures, complaint-filing policies, confidential policies (particularly important in the health care industry, which has access to a patient’s personal health information), and company-specific policies.

All federal and state compliance issues should be in the handbook, including:

  • An equal employment opportunity statement
  • Anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies
  • A Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy
  • An Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) policy
  • A religious accommodation policy
  • A background-check policy
  • A contractual disclaimer and at-will policy/statement
  • An employee acknowledgment form

Keep the Employee Handbook Updated

The handbook should be a “living document” that is updated regularly to reflect changing workplace trends and any new or changed laws that govern a specific industry or specific businesses. For example, be sure to include the company’s telecommuting policy if certain employees are now working remotely or in a hybrid environment. Address any potential liability risks associated with remote work, whether it be on a full or partial basis. This includes issues such as timekeeping, protection of company property, applicability of company policies in a remote working environment, flexible work arrangements, remote workplace safety, employee productivity, and more.

In this highly competitive and tight job market with employees now wanting more flexibility, it’s also a good time to review the company’s leave and paid-time-off policies. When it comes to employer-provided paid leave, make it clear if it can be rolled over from year to year and/or is payable upon termination and, if so, under what conditions. Review leave policies to ensure that they reflect any changes in the law.

Employers should revisit their employee handbooks annually. Any time there are changes made to the handbook, be sure employees acknowledge receipt of a new handbook in writing and place the acknowledgement in their personnel file.

Manchester Specialty Programs specializes in providing agents and brokers with totally integrated business insurance solutions to meet the needs of Home Care, Allied Health, and Human/Social Services organizations. For more information about how our products and services can help protect your insureds and how we recognize accredited firms, please contact us at 855.972.9399.