12 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Your 2015 Employee Handbook

A thought out and comprehensive employee handbook helps any business by providing clear guidelines and can help prevent unnecessary lawsuits. Employee handbooks should be regularly updated to stay on top of all the changing laws as they happen, and 2015 is no exception. The following list highlights 12 of the most common mistakes businesses make when creating or updating their employee handbooks. Recognizing these mistakes will help your business avoid unnecessary employee handbook pitfalls.

1. At-Will Statement Needs to Mention an Employee’s Right to Organize

The National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, has recently come down hard on any handbook provision that tacitly suggests employees cannot organize or form unions. As such, at-will statements need to include a paragraph that specifically states that employees have the right to organize, and this step will prevent any unnecessary lawsuits.

2. Don’t Prohibit Discussions on Pay and Benefits

Building off of the first point, in 2015 you want to steer clear from prohibiting employees discussing pay and benefits. This, too, can be seen as an infringement on the rights to organize, and the law is increasingly clear that such prohibitions will be problematic for any handbook that includes them.

3. Avoid Murky and Unclear Overtime Rules

If you are worried about unauthorized overtime, simply make a separate provision stating that unauthorized overtime is prohibited, and violators of this rule will be subject to discipline. However, if an employee works overtime, you are required by law to pay the employee for hours worked.

4. Don’t Ignore Recent Rule Changes to Same-Sex Couple Benefits

Policies concerning spousal leave, healthcare plans and retirement plans must be made to recognize legally married same-sex couples, as outlined by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If necessary, it is essential to make these changes in 2015 to avoid lawsuits for your business.

5. Don’t Forget the Latest Nursing Mother DOL Rules

Employers ought to know that, under the Affordable Care Act and the Department of Labor, nursing mothers must be given breastfeeding breaks. This policy should be included in any comprehensive employee handbook.

6. Be Sure to Update Your Leave Policies

Given the many states that have passed laws that expand the leave requirements for employers, it is best to create a flexible leave policy in your employee handbook. Paid sick leave is required in most states, and federal law seems to be trending towards requiring paid sick leave among other forms of leave. As such, it is advisable to be ahead of the curve on this issue by creating flexible leave policies for employees. Only San Francisco, the District of Columbia and the state of Connecticut, require employers to offer some paid sick leave. If you do offer some variety of it should be included in your employee handbook.

****Given there have been a many cities that have passed laws that expand the leave requirements for employers, it is best to create a flexible leave policy in your employee handbook and know your city or state law. Paid sick leave is required in some states. Some states have “paid sick day” campaigns or ongoing legislation. The White House has unveiled new proposals to give all working Americans the opportunity to earn sick days. As such, it is advisable to be ahead of the curve on this issue by creating flexible leave policies for employees.

7. Take Note of Recent Healthcare Changes

If you offer benefits under the Affordable Care Act, you are now going to want to include a concise list of all the benefits that you offer employees. Clearly list all benefits, but your benefits provider can provide the more detailed and in-depth information. Simply put, clearly state all benefits provided.
Additionally, make sure that your policies offer coverage to employees within 90 days of their hiring. If your current policies do not do so, you will need to change them in light of recent healthcare changes.

8. Avoid Discrimination Concerning Reasonable Accommodations

Any employee handbook should adequately outline that they will work to provide reasonable accommodations as outlined in Title VII of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Recently, some states have moved to require reasonable accommodations for pregnant mothers.

9. Avoid an Unclear Stance on Social Media Policies

Social media laws are rapidly changing, so this section will likely need to be revised more often than your employee handbook as a whole. Do take note that several states forbid disciplining employees that refuse to provide access to their personal social media. If your business operates in one of these states, avoid forbidding such employee choices.

10. Don’t Forget Technology Policies

Given that technology is always changing, make sure that your technology policies stay relevant. A great way to do this is by including your IT staff when creating the technology policy.

11. Remember to Account for Both Federal and State Laws

Most employee handbooks are aware of federal laws that impact business but take care not to ignore state laws. It is necessary to know both so that you do not violate any laws in your employee handbook. Whichever law provides more benefit to the employee is the law that supersedes.

12. Avoid Unnecessary Lawsuits by Having Your Handbook Reviewed

Building off the previous point, it is essential to have a lawyer review your handbook. A lawyer will ensure that your handbook complies with all of the relevant legal changes that have taken place since your last employee handbook released.

Does your employee handbook comply with today’s relevant legal changes? Do you even have an employee handbook? Get your’s FREE today.
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