A properly drafted employee handbook can be a valuable tool for relaying information about the employer and its policies, as well as a guide to enable management to promote nondiscriminatory, consistent application of its policies and practices. A comprehensive employee handbook is an important communication tool that explains an organization’s culture, policies, work rules, benefits and expectations.
Employee handbooks also can play a role in employment litigation: Employees may legally challenge whether an employer properly complied with handbook language, or whether that language passes legal muster. Therefore, a handbook with properly drafted provisions is an invaluable asset in protecting employers from legal claims.
Whether an employer is developing an employee handbook for the first time or making major modifications to an existing handbook, it’s important to follow a detailed plan to stay on schedule. The development and maintenance of an employee handbook can be divided into nine phases:
- Project kick-off preparation
- Handbook committee initial meeting
- Draft handbook preparation
- Draft handbook initial review by committee
- Handbook rewrites and edits
- Draft handbook final review
- Communication strategy
- Handbook distribution
- Handbook review and maintenance
These phases may vary slightly depending on the organization, the participants in policy development, and the review and approval process. Following these phases will help to ensure that the handbook process is thorough and represents the organization’s preferences and intentions.
However, lawsuits based on language contained in employee handbooks and other written employment policies and procedures are common. The contractual language used in many employee handbooks creates potential problems for unsuspecting employers. Employers should regularly review their handbooks and policy and procedure manuals to determine whether they contain language that may form the basis for a wrongful discharge lawsuit or other employment claim.
If an employer distributes a handbook or policy and procedure manual to employees, it should be prepared to follow the specific terms and conditions of employment set forth therein.
Need additional assistance creating a new, compliant employee handbook for your organization in each state that you operate?
Thompson’s Employee Handbook Builder is a completely browser-based system, unlike software products that require you to download files on to your desktop. With Thompson’s Employee Handbook Builder, you can build, access, and update your handbook from any computer with a browser and an internet connection. In addition, we cover all applicable state policies, review them and provide you with updates throughout the year. Your handbook is hosted on our secure servers and can be made available over the web to employees with real-time updates you provide.
Using Thompson’s Employee Handbook Builder, you can produce a fully customized employee handbook in a few minutes – something that would typically cost thousands of dollars and require weeks of valuable company time.