Employee handbooks can be an incredibly useful tool for communicating information about your business’s history, goals, policies, benefits, and more all in one book. Yet, businesses are always in a constant state of flux. From changing benefit providers to employment laws, running a business requires that you convey a large amount of information to your employee in a timely matter. 

This is where updating and maintaining your existing employee handbook becomes just as important as creating one. Operating with an out-of-date handbook leaves a business and its employees vulnerable and can at best land the company in legal hot water, or at worst get an employee hurt from bad information.  

This week we wanted to talk about the importance of keeping your employee handbook up to date and provide some suggestions on some new sections that you could add to it to keep it updated. 

What to watch out for when updating your employee handbook

Handbooks work as a contract between the employer and employee, establishing expectations on how each one should behave and what should happen if those expectations aren’t meant. If the handbook is out of date, then that would mean that the expectations between the employer and employee are also out of date. 

This is why it is important to keep an employee handbook up to date with any changes that occur within the company. You may be thinking that there is a myriad of things that you need to keep an eye on to keep your company’s employee handbook up to date, and you’d be right. That is why below we’ve come up with four great areas that you should review annually to update your employee handbook:

Company Changes Legal and policy requirements change all the time within a company and internal memos can serve as quick fix to alert your employees of any changes, but you want to update your handbook whenever changes do occur. Other things that can change companywide are offered employee benefits, compliance laws, and policies like paid sick leave.  

Technology Changes Technology is always changing, and with it, so should your employee handbook. Adding new policies like Wi-Fi rules (if they are allowed to log onto the network with their own devices), BYOD to work, social media usage at work, or even digital privacy clauses are great additions to a 21stcentury employee handbook. 

 Law Changes– Federal, State, and local laws change and usually have a significant impact on how you dictate your company policies. It’s always a good idea to keep a lookout for changes on the local and state level because those get often overlooked compared to national headlines of federal changes. Take for example marijuana legalization, businesses that operate in states with legalization need to update their handbooks to address the usage of marijuana before work either recreationally or medically. Other changes to look out for would be changes to the minimum wage, state family-leave requirements, and local sick-leave laws.  

 Cultural Changes- a company’s culture should change with the times and where it is at in its growth cycle. Think about how your business has changed and what policies you think your company could begin to implement to reflect these changes. These cultural changes could be dress codes, non-discriminatory policies, sexual harassment policies, or even your company’s environment policy!

Questions on Updating Your Employee Handbook 

 At this point, you might have some questions about how you should go about updating your employee handbook (or even questions on how to create a handbook in the first place). We get questions like these all the time and decided to include some frequently asked questions regarding employee handbooks. 

 What common mistakes do you see in handbooks? 

 Typically, we see that employers don’t update their handbooks enough and don’t get them reviewed by a lawyer before posting them. This can lead to out-of-date handbooks with poor legal review that can leave a business exposed to litigation. Another key issue that we see is overlapping policies or poorly worded policies in handbooks, this can lead to poor enforcement of company policy which in turn can be detrimental to daily operations. 

 How often should I update our handbook? 

 You should keep your handbook updated every time there is a change in the law, and/or if there are any updates to your existing policies and practices. A more realistic goal is to update your handbook annually and have legal counsel review it every 3 years. These goals can be changed depending on your business’ needs, so try to find a balance that works for your organization’s goals. 

 Should employees be notified of a handbook update? 

 Employees should always be notified of any updates to the handbook. Hosting your employee handbook online can help make this easier, as any changes that are made to the handbook can be notified to your employees through a simple text or email with a link to the revised handbook. 

 How do we update our employee handbook? 

 Many companies will use templates they find online, fill in their company details, and then distribute them to their employees, but this is an issue. Any policies you find online could potentially not match up to federal, state, or local laws, or not be comprehensive enough for your organization. This is why we recommend tailoring your policies in house or outsourcing to a trusted external HR team. 

 Do we need an employee handbook?

As we’ve emphasized before, an employee handbook is something that keeps your employees informed of your company’s policies and expectations. Running a business without one can be akin to driving without a seatbelt. Sure you can do it, but it puts you at great risk and you are much safer if you have one. 

Looking to create your employee handbook, but don’t know where to start? SolveHR’s team of HR experts can help you create a handbook that addresses all of the company policies that your organization needs. We make HR easy so you can focus on what matters—Growing your business!


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Written by: Matthew Muriel

Meet Matthew! Matthew is our content writer and has been working with us for a year. He enjoys working for SolveHR because it allows him to practice his copywriting and allows him to build experience in his fledgling career. Matthew studied at the University of Texas at San Antonio and earned his degree in English with a concentration in Professional Writing. He values learning new processes in the HR industry and then conveying those ideas to the company’s clients. When he isn’t working, he enjoys reading nonfiction, with his favorite book that he recently read being The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee. If he could go anywhere in the world he would travel across the United States and visit all of the national parks.

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