Rethink Your Handbook With XpertHR Guidance on What to Include and What to Avoid

A new whitepaper gives insights into the top handbook dos and don’ts

Retaining employees, attracting talent, DEIB initiatives and evolving laws all take front and center when employers draft and update the employee handbook—and with good reason. Prepared thoughtfully, the handbook plays a key role in supporting these initiatives and helps employers manage risk. It’s also a valuable resource for communicating company policies, promoting company values and onboarding new employees.

However, because of ongoing new legislation impacting the workplace, employee handbooks can quickly become outdated, and people professionals struggle to ensure their handbooks remain relevant and compliant. Handbook policies can become dated if they haven’t been refreshed to stay culturally relevant, promote inclusivity and speak to a diverse audience.

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“A poorly written, outdated handbook is a missed opportunity for employers. The handbook offers real value in promoting employee engagement and retention,” says Melissa Silver, Senior Legal Editor of Policy Solutions for XpertHR. “So it’s important to keep the handbook up to date—and know when it’s time to give it a full overhaul.”
 XpertHR, an HR strategy, compliance and data provider, offers tips to help with the process with its new whitepaper, 6 Items to Include in Your Employee Handbook and 3 to Avoid.

What’s the one thing every handbook should include? Policies employers are required by law to include in their handbook if they have one. While employee handbooks tend to be flexible, legal requirements are not, and if the employee handbook is not in compliance with a law’s notice requirements, it could leave a company vulnerable to litigation and fines.

“Employee handbook requirements differ from state to state, so be sure to check your state’s specific rules,” says Silver. “For example, in Maryland, employers covered under the Reasonable Accommodations for Disabilities Due to Pregnancy Act must have a section in their employee handbook dedicated to an employee’s right to reasonable accommodations and leave for a pregnancy-related disability. These requirements can even stretch to localities – employers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for instance, must include in their employee handbook a notice of employee rights and remedies under the Minneapolis paid sick leave law.”

It’s also essential to have well-written policies against harassment and discrimination, not only to reduce risk for the employer and set clear expectations for employees, but also to foster inclusivity and help increase employee engagement and morale. The policies should clearly communicate that discriminatory and harassing behaviors or conduct will not be tolerated in the workplace and that the employer will take related complaints seriously. Yet these two types of policies only scratch the surface. An employment at-will policy, an employee acknowledgment form and PTO policies with final wage information are additional critical components of a handbook.

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While identifying what to include in an employee handbook is important, it is equally or more important to recognize what to avoid in a handbook. Silver notes that one red flag is an employee handbook so riddled with legalese that it confuses employees. Clear, simple language is best. In that same vein, outdated policies can signal that the employer does not value the handbook. It’s also essential to ensure that the policies in the employee handbook as well as its tone and language reflect the present. One way for companies to do this is by being proactive, staying ahead of workplace trends and regularly updating the handbook. For instance, offering a policy on flexible work arrangements lets employees know that work-life balance is a priority, Silver says.

Of course, no matter how vital it may be, Silver acknowledges it can be challenging to update the employee handbook regularly. This is especially true for employers that operate in multiple jurisdictions or have remote employees in multiple states.
“One way you can help your handbook stay on track is Aptifore, a first-of-its-kind employee handbook solution,” she notes. Launched by XpertHR earlier this year, Aptifore combines an extensive, current database of federal, state and local employment laws with an unrivaled selection of multi-jurisdictional policies. Its intelligent technology supports and streamlines the continuous maintenance of compliant handbooks by providing ongoing, automated personalized alerts and policy updates as legislation changes.

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company policiesEmployee Engagementemployee handbooksflexible workWorkplaceXpertHR
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