It’s time to update your employee handbook

In addition to serving as an internal company branding and onboarding tool, think of your employee handbook as a living being that needs regular care and feeding. It doesn’t know that your social media policy changed when IT introduced “bring your own device,” and it certainly hasn’t kept up with ever-changing laws regarding marijuana use, both medicinal and otherwise.

How often you update your company’s employee handbook is ultimately up to the department that owns the document — usually HR, with heavy input from legal — but at minimum we suggest doing a thorough review at least once a year.

For example, consider the impact that recent cases on sexual harassment, gender equality and biometric data alone have had on the workplace in the past year. Have they been appropriately addressed in your company’s HR policies and procedures?

What about your own internal systems for maintaining compliance? In the last eight months alone, your company has introduced a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-mandated incident reporting system and investor relations retained a new vendor for employees (and everyone else) to report possible company fraud. These updates were provided to existing employees when they were rolled out, but new ones will need to be made aware of them too.

What Now?

To ensure that you’re able to capture and remember all of the updates that happen between employee handbook versions, we suggest keeping a “For Next Year’s Edition” (FNYE) copy somewhere safe, where it can’t get accidentally deleted or borrowed.

Whenever there’s an update sent to employees regarding company policies and/or procedures, make note of it in your FNYE. Better yet, add a copy of the actual message sent to employees, to ensure that the language is consistent.

Each time something reported in the news is relevant to doing business with a workforce, put it in the FNYE. Same goes for everything else disseminated by any of the many alphabet agencies we know and (sort of) love: DOL, FMLA, IRS and OSHA, to name a few. (The Department of Labor, Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

Also, as you update your FNYE copy, make note of where extensive content may need to be developed. For example, if your company has never issued a social media policy but would like to, this content will require many departments involved in its creation. You’ll want to get that ball rolling long before you sit down to make the quick and easy updates on your list.

When you’re finally ready to sit down and make all the changes that you’ve been curating all year long, be sure to share it with your legal department and/or outside counsel to make sure that you haven’t missed anything. Then once the new version has been christened and published, don’t forget to create your FNYE copy for next year’s changes.

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