3 Employee Handbook Updates to Make Today

July 12, 2022

At a glance

  • Amend outdated policies and procedures: The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed many aspects of the working world from both a cultural and regulatory perspective, which means your employee handbook could be out of date.
  • Why it matters: By refreshing pivotal sections of your handbook, you decrease regulatory and employment compliance risks and also improve transparency and communication among your staff members.
  • Next steps: Updating your employee handbook can be an overwhelming endeavor. Aprio People Advisory Services can help you fill the gaps.

Schedule a consultation with Aprio today

The full story:

If you have an employee handbook that is buried in your business’s intranet or in your onboarding folder, take comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Human resources (HR) professionals and operations teams are consumed with many competing tasks and little time to accomplish them all, especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and return to business as usual.

The pandemic, in particular, has profoundly affected the working world — so even though it may be on the bottom of your priority list, it’s important to take a closer look at your employee handbook (at least annually) and refresh key areas. Here are the most important sections to review.

1. Local, state and federal compliance policies

Laws related to disability, sick and family leave, as well as regulations and mandates pertaining to the pandemic, are continually evolving. Failing to adjust or amend your policies and procedures to reflect those changes puts your business at risk. It’s also critical to pay close attention to laws surrounding contractors if you assign out projects to 1099 workers.  

Like many businesses, you may have employees performing work in different states or even different countries, a trend that has picked up in popularity since the onset of the pandemic. You need to ensure that your employee handbook complies with the requirements of the states and countries in which you have staffers doing business.

In addition to adjusting your handbook to reflect different states’ and countries’ requirements, you should also be sure to account for changes in headcount, as different-sized companies must comply with different types of regulations.

2. Hybrid and remote work policies

When the pandemic first began, companies quickly pivoted to allow employees to work from home amid state-mandated lockdown orders. But now that remote work is becoming a permanent arrangement for many organizations, it’s important to put more concrete policies in place. Since remote work can look different for every business, here are a few universal considerations to keep in mind when outlining policies in your handbook:

  • Classify remote work and hybrid work arrangements: Make sure that your handbook differentiates what constitutes a permanent remote work arrangement versus a hybrid work arrangement. A “hybrid work arrangement” is one in which employees work remotely and on-site on a specific schedule every week. For instance, you may allow employees to work remotely a certain number of hours per week but then also require them to work in your office a certain number of hours per week. Conversely, you may give managers and department supervisors the responsibility of developing hybrid work schedules among their own team members. Regardless of what approach you decide to take, make sure that it is clearly outlined in your employee handbook. This ensures that all of your employees, managers and business leaders are on the same page.

  • Designate roles: There may be certain positions at your company for which remote work isn’t possible. For instance, you may employ engineers who need to use equipment that is only available on-site, or you may have customer service representatives who must interface with customers in the office. To create more transparency and mitigate miscommunication, list out positions that are and are not eligible for remote work in your handbook. Your handbook may also include detailed explanations for why certain roles must be present on-site, which creates understanding among current and future employees regarding expectations.

  • Define business and working hours: Some companies may give remote employees flexible business hours that allow them to work anywhere, anytime. However, if you run a business that interfaces directly with customers, then you may need to set more defined parameters around business hours to ensure coverage. This becomes more important if you have employees spread across the country or internationally working in different time zones. Use your employee handbook to spell out the times during the workday in which you expect all or certain employees to be available.

3. Social media usage

It’s safe to assume that your employees are on social media and use platforms regularly multiple times a day. Social media is ingrained into nearly every aspect of our lives, and you need to set boundaries around how your employees refer to or engage with your brand in the space.

If you are interested in facilitating an employee advocacy program (or an initiative to get your employees to share your company’s content on social media), set policies and specific parameters around how they should engage with the brand or share information with their followers. Create a “code of conduct” that includes best practices for representing your company on social media. Your policy should also serve to mitigate risk by setting effective rules preventing employees from disseminating negative messaging that may be harmful to your brand or customers.

Streamline the update process and gain appropriate buy-in

It’s not enough to simply update your handbook; you need to ensure that your employees receive a copy of the new version and confirm their receipt with a dated signature. Some laws at the state and local levels even require employees to sign off on specific amendments. This is why it is critical to work with a qualified team, as well as an employment attorney who can review the handbook itself, help you navigate the implementation and distribution process, and help ensure you are staying above board.

Aside from distributing the handbook, you also need to make sure you train your managers, executive leaders and other key employees on the new policies and procedures so they can enforce them on a team level.

Let Aprio People Advisory Services lead the way

Creating new policies and procedures can be a lot of work, especially if your business is in rapid growth mode. Aprio partners with HR teams to answer pressing questions, including issues related to employee relations, and provides technology solutions that take the manual work out of HR, payroll processing and tax compliance to save time.

Schedule a consultation with us today to learn how we can help you update your employee handbook.

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