April 4, 2022, by HR Search & Rescue Every organization should distribute employee handbooks to new and existing employees. The employee handbook is designed as a resource that outlines and describes your organization’s specific standards, policies and rules. Organizations should periodically review to update the contents of their employee handbook to ensure that the handbook is up to date and in compliance with all current federal, state and local employment laws or regulations. Employee handbook policies that may require updating can range from workplace dress codes to more comprehensive policies required by law. This article covers how and when to update some of the various guidelines provided by your organization’s employee handbook. Updating Your Employee Handbook Outdated policies often confuse staff which could lead to interpersonal workplace conflicts or obstructions to your company’s growth. The HR department should keep the employee handbook consistent with current practices, employment laws, and industry regulations. Here are five updates you can make to your employee handbook to keep it relevant: Federal Compliance Labor laws should be the foundation of any company policy regarding workers. Although labor laws are not prone to frequent change, it is essential to keep track of them so that any developments are immediately reflected in the employee handbook. Furthermore, you need to ensure that your company-specific policies comply with the law. Failure to comply with current labor laws could result in employee lawsuits against your organization. For example, global or international regulations such as GDPR and CCPA emphasize the protection of employee data. These policies must be mentioned in the employee handbook. Dress Code Policy It can be tricky to navigate dress code policies. Many office dress code policies require that their staff dress in “business casual.” Casual dress code policies are common among managers who are less concerned with what the employee wears and more concerned with their work performance Discrimination claims can arise at any time, and you want to take preventative measures to avoid them. When creating a dress code, you will need to set aside personal beliefs and ensure that the dress code is based on legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons. Furthermore, make sure that the dress code is similar across all genders. Social Media Policy It can be a challenge to restrict the use of social media in the workplace, given that social media is now a part of daily life. Nevertheless, an organization’s employee handbook should still outline a set of policies about appropriate social media use in the workplace or while acting as a representative of the organization. You cannot control what an employee does on social media in a personal capacity. But, be clear about how you expect them to behave online on social platforms as a representative of your organization. This will offer some recourse if an employee misuses social media. It is essential to highlight the do’s and don’ts of appropriate social media use without infringing on anyone’s right to free speech. This usually means having a clear-cut clause about harassment, hate speech, and complaints or criticisms about the employer. Moreover, many organizations restrict the use of social media during working hours. Make sure you set the standard promptly to avoid confusion or miscommunication. Studies indicate that 70% of companies with social media policies have taken disciplinary actions against employees who misuse social media. Cell Phone Usage Policy Many organizations provide their employees with a work cell phone or reimburse a portion of the cost of employees’ existing cell phone plans. In this case, it is vital to establish guidelines about appropriate cell phone use. You may only access the contents of the employee’s phone if it’s a business phone, i.e., your organization gave them the phone for business purposes only. If you are merely reimbursing the cost of the employee’s personal cell phone plan, then that personal cell phone is still theirs to share or withhold from the company as they see fit. Your organization does not have the authority to track an employee’s personal cell phone. Providing your employees with a dedicated work phone is probably the best solution if your organization wants to maintain maximum control over their cell phone use. Drug Policy This policy should be in place to keep the workplace drug free. There are certain parts of the world where drugs, such as cannabis, are legal. Your organization’s policies can still dictate if workplace drug use is prohibited. For example, there are many organizations that prohibit alcohol consumption in the workplace because of alcohol’s impact on attentiveness, social behavior, and productivity. Wrapping Up Employee handbooks should be kept up to date with both the law as well as changes to contemporary social standards. Standards that seemed appropriate a decade ago may be no longer relevant today. Laws governing privacy and data use change frequently, for example, so it is crucial to verify that your employee handbook is up to date with the latest changes. Once you have updated your employee handbook, notify all employees of the changes and provide them with the updated copy. Welcome any questions or feedback they provide. Keeping an open mind to employee feedback will help you refine and improve your organization’s handbook in the future. When done right, an employee handbook is an indispensable resource for communicating with your employees about your organization’s core values and expectations. That’s why it’s best to consult an expert, whether you’re updating an old handbook or creating an employee handbook for the first time. Let us help. Get in touch with our HR specialists today to bring your employee handbook up to date.