August 02, 2016 – Colleen Niese -

Ask the HR Expert – Top 3 Employee Handbook Tips

I know, I know, writing about Employee Handbooks is about as exciting as reading the 4 point font written warranty language on any given gadget.  About the only time a handbook becomes a hot topic of interest is when it’s needed to clarify a policy or an employee issue.  To make sure your Employee Handbook meets all objectives intended proactively, follow these easy tips:

Who Wrote That?

While tempting to buy or download an Employee Handbook from any given site, buyer beware: most don’t address state and/or region specific regulations and if an organization is unionized, those templates will certainly not highlight policies that may not be applicable to the collective bargaining unit.  Another risk is their age; given all the ongoing legislative changes.  If the handbook package you’ve purchased is more than a year old, it likely contains dated or incorrect information.  Your best bet is to source your Employee Handbook by a professional consultant (the cheaper route) and/or your outside counsel (the bit more expensive route) to ensure it’s customized to your business practices and currently in compliance at all levels of the law.

NLRA Fun for the Whole Family!

As most of you are aware the National Labor Relations Act applies to all employers, regardless of their union/non-union status.  The National Labor Relations Board, who oversees the NLRA has been a very busy little body over the past few years changing and/or adding to the Act on a number of fronts that materially affect any given Employee Handbook policy on Social Media, Employees Privacy Rights, Employee Communications, and the handbook itself in terms of confidentiality and proprietary information rights (or lack thereof).  And that’s just the NLRA.  Handbook language affected by these changes makes the content moot, which would be the least damaging, or at the end of the other spectrum, unknowingly exposing the company to very real liability.

Is there an Attorney in the House?

This is where a Labor and Employment attorney (as opposed to a contractual lawyer) is your best friend.  He or she can review your handbook to make sure it’s in alignment with all laws and regulations from local to federal and everything in between.  One of these professionals’ primary job responsibilities is to keep up with both legislation and law and the implications of subsequent changes toward business practices.  When we draft handbooks, we strongly encourage that the client have the document reviewed by this type of outside counsel to ensure compliance.  While best practices will dictate that you have your handbook reviewed quarterly, we recognize that’s not always feasible but recommend at a minimum, an annual review.  You’ll be surprised how economical and efficient the process can be and will sleep well at night with the peace of mind that your policies reflect external requirements.

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