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Idea Box: Tips for Developing Better Employee Training and Handbook Materials
An employee handbook can help a company communicate policies and other important information to your staff and production workers.
Date Posted: 6/1/2013
Havingan employee handbook can be a useful tool for any company – even a smallbusiness. It can be a resource to communicate information about policies,procedures, goals and company history. By making written handbooks available toemployees, you can make sure that they are aware of everything that they shouldknow.
Unfortunately,employment and labor laws at the federal, state or local level can changerapidly, so employee handbooks should be reviewed every year, and modified ifneeded, to make sure that everything in it complies with any new or revisedlaws. But beyond laws, companies also grow and change, and policies may need tobe updated to apply to a workforce or conditions that are different than theywere just a few years before. Whether you are creating or updating an employeehandbook, keep the followings do’s and don’ts in mind.
• Becareful about what you promise. Some courts could interpret employee handbooksas binding obligations for employers. To avoid legal problems, ensure that thehandbook does not include any unconditional promises, such as promisingemployment as long as policies are followed or inflexible discipline policies.
• Checkfor compliance with both general labor laws and industry specific regulationsat the federal and state levels. Many states require by law that certainpolicies be included in employee handbooks – such as family medical leave,equal employment and non-discrimination, harassment and worker’s compensationpolicies
• Avoidconfusing or hard-to-understand language when possible. If legal terms orwording are needed or required by law, by all means they should be used. Butevery effort should be made to use language that is easy for anyone tounderstand. After all, if employees can’t understand it, an employee handbookis not doing its job.
• Don’tmake it any longer than needed. While you don’t want to leave importantinformation out, a lengthy handbook will make it hard for employees to rememberthe information that it contains. Be accurate, but brief with any necessaryinformation.
•Include answers to questions employees commonly ask. A handbook is a good placeto include information that is frequently asked for, such as employee benefits,technology usage and payroll procedures.
• Havetranslations available for non-English speaking workers. If the primarylanguage of any workers is not English, have your handbook translated intotheir primary language. This will ensure that they can properly understand allthe information included in it.
• Makeit accessible and convenient to read. This can include distributing copies toeach employee, always giving new hires a copy on their first day of work andhaving it available electronically.
• Havea lawyer review it. To ensure that all the policies and procedures outlined inan employee handbook do not violate employment laws, that all requiredinformation is included, and that it does not create an unintended legalramifications, have the handbook reviewed by an attorney familiar withemployment law.
Moreinformation on federal employment laws can be found on the Department ofLabor’s website, http://www.dol.gov. Handbook templates and other helpfulresources are available from the Small Business Administration(http://www.sba.gov) and the National Federation of Independent Business(http://www.nfib.com).