Why Bother With An Employee Handbook?
Honestly, on a scale of 1 to 5, how would rate your employee handbook?
5 – Super Star: It was updated in the last two years to reflect the changes that happened as a result of COVID.
4 - Wannabe a Star. The handbook was updated in the past four years. We know we need to review it again because new legislation has come on the books.
3 – Could be better. It was updated in 2015. That’s 7 years ago. Amazing how fast time flies, isn’t it?
2 – Atrocious. The handbook consists of a patchwork of policy memos that have been put together over the years. We give it to new hires but no one pays attention to it.
1 – Employee handbook, who has time for reading anyway? I guess we have one but I am not sure where my copy is.
0 – I don’t have a employee handbook but I am thinking we might need one and that’s why I am reading this article!
If you are like the majority of organizations, you will rate your employee handbook a “3” at best.
Why have An Employee Handbook?
An employee handbook is a communication tool. It provides written guidelines to work out recurring workplace questions like time off and employee discipline. It sets basic expectations (work hours, acceptable grooming, dress code) and lay out key procedures from the trivial (such as how to request leave) to the more difficult (how to report harassment by a supervisor).
Although employee handbooks do not have to be lengthy, they should include the following types of information in the state of Virginia:
At-will employment disclaimer
Equal Employment Opportunity statement and anti-harassment policy
Company policies and work rules
Definition of FLSA status (exempt, non-exempt)
Employment classification (full-time, part-time, seasonal, on-call).
The handbook also serves as a reference tool for management when determining if employee conduct violates workplace policies.
Is A Business Ever Too Small To Have An Employee Handbook?
Although you may think that your business is too small to need an employee handbook, you may be surprised to hear that some employment statutes apply to all employers regardless of size. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act -which dictates the need to pay overtime- apply to all employers. Ditto for the verification of the legal status of all employees, better known as the I-9 Form, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (often known as OSHA).
A Note Of Caution
An employee handbook is a useful tool, but poorly written employee handbook can be used as a weapon against employers. For instance, a handbook that is misusing certain key terms, as such probation period, could endanger the at-will status of employment.
If you are considering drafting an employee handbook, it is wise to seek professional advice from a seasoned HR professional or an attorney specialized in employment law. It’s always best to work with a consultant who understands the specifics of managing the home care workforce.
Training is crucial
Employment policies only come alive when supervisors understand and know how to implement them in the workplace. In short, “Write what you do” and “Do what your write” is key here.
Employers will be held liable if their practices did not follow the written policies.
So, if you update your employee handbook, take the time to train supervisors and employees on the changes.
About the author - Anne-Lise Gere, SPHR, is an HR advisor and consultant at Gere Consulting Associates LLC. Home care providers consult with her on caregiver recruitment and retention to achieve sustained results. Anne-Lise also works with clients on a retainer basis to provide on-going HR support. For more information, visit www.gereconsulting.com or contact Anne-Lise at [email protected].