Why Your Business Plan Should Include an Employee Handbook

One thing as a business owner that is often overlooked or put on a back burner “to do” list- creating and/or updating your employee handbook. Having an updated handbook is one of the most important and effective tools in ensuring your workplace is functioning properly, protecting employees, and shielding your business from significant liability. An employee handbook is an invaluable tool used to clearly describe the standards, expectations, and policies of any business. Not only should every business consider implementing an employee handbook, those companies that already have one should also consider reviewing and updating it on a regular basis.

1. Employee handbooks set the standards and expectations for employee discipline in a consistent manner.

Employee discipline, while hopefully infrequent, is an unavoidable fact of business. An employee handbook that clearly defines acceptable and unacceptable employee conduct allows an employer to efficiently discipline employees in a consistent fashion when violations occur. Having an appropriate policy can shield an employer from claims of retaliatory or discriminatory discipline. As employer expectations and standards change, so too should the employee handbook – a yearly review allows for updates and revisions to keep the handbook current with employer policies

2. No business is too small to need an employee handbook.

Every business big, small, and in between is bound to face complications with harassment, violence, discrimination, and/or retaliation whether the conduct is from an employee or from an outside vendor/customer. Without appropriate written policies in place, these businesses stand very little chance of prevailing should issues arise. An up to date, thorough employee handbook allows all employers to prevent, efficiently deal with, and confidently move on from the various obstacles that come with having employees.

3. The law is constantly changing; failing to review and update your handbook may leave you in violation of ever-changing laws.

The law, and how it is interpreted, is fluid and changes over time. Laws are repealed and modified, a court’s interpretation of existing law changes and new laws are passed. This is especially true with the changing of presidential administrations. Each change results in previously compliant policies being outdated and potentially unlawful. The importance of consistent yearly reviews of employee handbooks in relation to changes in the law is easily illustrated. For instance, in the last four years, there have been significant modifications and clarifications regarding to what extent you can prohibit the use of employer-sponsored computer systems and technology. Failure to incorporate these modifications can result in significant liability. In Minnesota, any handbook that has not been updated since 2014 is, without question, in violation of at least one law that mandates inclusion.

While creating and/or reviewing a handbook can be a daunting task, it is absolutely necessary. 2020 brought about some of the biggest and most fast-moving policy changes and decisions (work from home, EFLMA, technology, flextime, etc.) Will your business allow for some of these modifications to remain or maybe your business stayed open with employees in person working – either way, your employee handbook needs to lay the proper foundation regarding these decisions.

If you are in need of creating and/or reviewing your handbook, please consult with an experienced labor and employment attorney.

We can help!

If you have any questions about the content of this article or about drafting your own telecommuting policy, please contact Eckberg Lammers Labor & Employment attorney Lida Bannink at 651-351-2116, or email at lbannink@eckberglammers.com.