Well-written, legally compliant employee handbooks and policies can protect your organization from employment law challenges and be an important step in developing a positive employee culture. Employers Council has HR experts on hand to provide you with everything from sample handbooks to our
Employee Handbook Planning Guide to help you write and update your employee handbook with the latest changes in employment law.
We'll Review it or We'll Even Write It
If you already have a handbook, our professional staff can review it through the filters of both HR professionals that specialize in employee relations and our legal staff that specializes in employment law. We'll provide you with feedback that includes draft clauses with sample language and an explanation of the administrative and legal issues you need to consider for each type of clause.
If you do not have the bandwidth to draft your own handbook, our HR consultants can do it for you. Once they've written your handbook, they'll pass it on to our attorneys to perform a legal review. That way what you receive is up-to-date on the latest laws and contains policies that will protect your organization from employment law challenges.
Join Employers Council today for hands-on assistance in building an engaging and compliant Employee Handbook!
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Why Your Organization Needs an Employee Handbook
There are no explicit federal laws that require employers to have an employee handbook, but creating one carries a multitude of cultural and legal benefits for your organization. Handbooks can be used to establish consistent policies across departments and job titles – policies that encourage compliance and define expectations between employer and employees. Employee handbooks can also provide employers with a place to articulate their organizational mission and values. They are often distributed on an employee's first day to help communicate responsibilities and policies that stretch past the individual responsibilities of their job title and articulate how they can be a successful member of your organization as a whole. In the form of a handbook, these messages can be documented clearly and can be referenced at any time.
The Risks of Not Having a Well-Written Employee Handbook
Establishing clear expectations in your employee handbook can protect your organization in the event those expectations are not met by an employee. If you don't document new policies by including them in your handbook and need to enforce them, you open your organization up to responsive legal action on the part of the employee in question.
In addition, it's important to make sure your handbook is both tailored to your organization and does a good job of clearly articulating the policies it contains. Liability for an employer can arise when there's ambiguity in the language or enforced expectations are left out entirely.
Include a Disclaimer
Even if you anticipate a variety of situations and include them in your handbook, the possibility of something you never expected could arise. It's important to include a disclaimer noting that every situation that could possibly arise in the workplace cannot be addressed by the handbook so you still have the ability to be flexible and use your best judgment when the unexpected happens.
In the event of an unanticipated occurrence in the workplace, it's important to consult an HR and employment law expert before you take any immediate action. A membership with Employers Council includes a dedicated expert that you can call at any time to get advice on how to address a situation and minimize any potential risk that could occur. For more information on how we can help,
explore our Employment Law Advice & Consultation page.
Be Consistent when Enforcing Policies
If you're inconsistent with enforcing policies, you open your organization and management to perceptions that some employees are above the rules while others are not. In cases where two employees are disciplined differently for the same infraction, you risk an employee filing a charge of discrimination against the organization. Designating someone to analyze your handbook can help ensure the language doesn't contain subjectivity or ambiguity, so that your policies of enforcement can be applied consistently and so that you're protected in the case of a discrimination claim.
To give you the tools to address situations appropriately and reduce the risk of a discrimination claim, a documented disciplinary policy should include a disclaimer that the organization reserves the right to skip one or more steps as necessary based on the severity of the infraction.
How to Roll Out an Employee Handbook
Doing the work of building a compliant and thoughtful handbook is an important step in the process, but you can't expect it to be followed if you send it out in a single email. One of the most common pitfalls of an employee handbook is not taking the time to train your employees on the policies and expectations it contains. This doesn't just apply to new employees or base pay workers. Make sure you also take the time to regularly train managers and supervisors on handbook policies so they can both comply with and enforce them.
Communicating policies around issues like sexual harassment can be difficult. Our HR and employment law experts can help make sure you're equipped to have that conversation in a safe, healthy manner and anticipate any reactions you might get. These experts can also help you in the event that an executive, manager, supervisor, or another member of your organization violates these policies.
Want help training your employees on organizational policies?
View our Legal Compliance Training Courses
How Often You Need to Update an Employee Handbook
Handbooks should be reviewed at least once a year on an annual basis, with the exception that policies addressing new laws be added as soon as possible to ensure your organization stays protected in the event of noncompliance. To stay up to date, Employers Council sends its members a publication called
Hot Topics, addressing important employment law updates as soon as they are announced.
How Much It Costs to Make an Employee Handbook without a Membership to Employers Council
- 1. In order to create an effective and compliant employee handbook without a membership to Employers Council, you first need to set aside the high number of hours it will take to document your internal policies, mission, vision, values, and expectations around culture and workplace performance. You will also need to research the employment laws in your state and federally so that your policies aren't violating them. That process may include a single employee or a team of employees, adding input and iterating through different drafts. You will also need to leadership to review and approve the handbook so that it is an accurate reflection of the organization from the top down.
How much do you value your time?
- 2. Next, you'll need to run it past a lawyer who specializes in employment law to ensure it is compliant with both state and federal laws, and to ensure it minimizes your liability as an employer.
Lawyers cost hundreds of dollars an hour and usually take multiple hours to review a document like this.
3. Finally, you'll need to roll out this handbook and train employees at each level of the organization on your policies and expectations.
Training can take hours of your time, and any resulting non-compliance to company policies can open your organization up to thousands of dollars in liability.
A membership with Employers Council means you can access all of these services for less than an employee's salary for one month.
See how much a membership costs
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I address social media in my handbook?
Addressing social media in your employee handbook requires a thoughtful approach. Restrictions against employee speech can violate
Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Employers are also not allowed to prevent their employees from discussing wages and other work issues with fellow employees. To proactively address concerns that may arise on social media, organizations often include a disclaimer on their corporate accounts that the opinions their employees express on social media are their own and do not necessarily reflect the organization's opinions.
Do we need to include a policy on sexual harassment?
Not addressing sexual harassment in your employee handbook can expose your organization in the event a claim arises. Documented policies explaining what constitutes harassment and what an employee should do in the event it occurs can help provide peace of mind and protect your organization. When an employee does come forward with a claim, employers must promptly investigate the claim.