Top 10 Policies You Need in Your Employee Handbook
Nestor Barrero, senior counsel at Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP, a well-respected national employment law firm and legal partner to ThinkHR, summarizes 10 must-have policies for your employee handbook.
- At-will employment: You can destroy the at-will employment relationship through promises made in an employee handbook. Including this policy reinforces the at-will nature of employment. It should also state that the handbook is not a contract and may change at any time.
- Equal employment opportunity: This policy should comply with national (Title VII, Americans with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, etc.), state, and local anti-discrimination laws. It should include protections based on race, religion, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, military service, and other protected categories that may include marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or transgender status.
- Anti-harassment: Your harassment policy should be comprehensive, effective, and realistic. It should define harassment, set forth avenues for reporting it up through the executive level or board of directors if the boss is the alleged harasser, and offer a degree of confidentiality and support. It also needs to include an anti-retaliation statement. It’s important that this policy reach beyond sexual harassment to include people in every protected category.
- Pay and hours of work: Your pay practices, including when the workweek begins and ends, payroll periods, and deductions from pay should be included. Your policy should include your overtime rules when non-exempt employees are entitled to work overtime and any pre-approval procedures that are required.
- Attendance and tardiness: Employers may use a range of procedures for attendance, but it’s important to lay out your company’s guidelines and expectations for how much notice is required, who to report absences or tardiness to, and disciplinary actions that may be taken if procedures are not followed.
- Safety: The safety section of the handbook should affirm your commitment to employees to provide a safe and healthy work environment. It will vary by industry but should align with OSHA requirements that apply to your company, including health and safety policies, emergency preparedness plans, and equipment safety and use guidelines.
- Standards of conduct: Employees look to the organization to provide them with the “rules of the road” for behavior as a company team member. Policies should include organizational rules that help employees understand what is expected of them while at work and what behaviors may result in disciplinary action.
- Internet and electronic communication: A well-drafted policy will remind employees that your company’s computers and networks exist for business purposes and prohibit using work computers for specific personal activities. It should clearly state that there is no expectation of privacy on work computers and that security is not guaranteed.
- Family and medical leave: Employers subject to FMLA must inform employees of their rights under the act, including eligibility. The policy should state whether employees need to exhaust paid time off before taking FMLA leave, that benefits will be continued during leave, and that the employee may resume the same or equivalent job when they return. It should also include other requirements your company may have, such as medical certification or notice requirements. Employers should include state and local leave rules that may apply.
- Military leave: This policy should inform employees of their right to unpaid military leave under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, including their right to elect to continue health plan coverage for up to 24 months.