When it comes to employee benefit administration, most employers have an Employee Handbook or Employee Policy Manual that is given to every new hire upon their start date.
In addition to explaining your company’s work hours, dress codes, safety procedures, vacation time, sick days, paid holidays, and other fringe benefits, your employee handbook is an opportunity to share critical information about employee’s legal rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) among others.
Here are AmCheck’s top five tips for writing an effective employee policy manual.
- Use clear, easily understandable language
Your most important readers are your employees, so strive to make your employee manual as simple, clear and concise as possible. Choose your language carefully and leave out the legalese, acronyms and industry jargon – they’re cumbersome and can even be indecipherable to a new employee who is unfamiliar with your business.
- Allow for some flexibility
Whatever you state in your manual is fair game in a court of law. That means you must plan on adhering closely to the manual in order to protect yourself from litigation. It’s a good idea to build in some flexibility to your policies and procedures. For example, instead of stating that all performance reviews will be performed every three months, state that reviews will typically be performed quarterly. This slight alteration gives you some wiggle room.
- Keep it updated
Too many companies write an employee manual once and then never revisit it or update it. The fact is, employee manuals should be reviewed and updated at least once a year (twice a year is even better). This review gives you a chance to ensure you’re following your own policies and determine if you’re staying legally compliant.
- Make it consistent
Your employee handbook can protect your business from litigation, but only if it demonstrates consistency in documentation and application. To that end, everything in the manual should apply to every employee across the board. When you are selective about which groups should adhere to a policy, you leave yourself vulnerable to being challenged. And after you’ve drafted your manual, it’s a good idea to run it by your attorney for approval.
- Distribute it and follow it
Many employers take the time to create a manual, or hire a company to create it, and then fail to distribute it to employees. That’s a big mistake. If you took the time to draft a manual, make sure that each and every one of your employees has a copy of it.
If you created the manual, then you’re probably pretty familiar with the policies. But if it was written by an outside agency or another department, you should familiarize yourself with the manual so you can implement the policies and follow through consistently with employees.
An Employee Handbook is a key ingredient for any healthy business and for effective employee benefit administration. When done correctly, it will successfully communicate your company’s policies and procedures in a logical and centralized manner.