Many employers have “Employee Handbooks” or “Employee Manuals” containing various employment policies. I think they are a necessity for most workplaces. Often, however, I see the same mistakes made by employers that utilize handbooks. Although there are numerous tips regarding how to draft and utilize a handbook effectively, here are 3 basic rules to consider and apply:
1. Keep it (Semi) Brief. Believe it or not, I have reviewed handbooks up to 100 pages long. Handbooks should not aspire to be the length of a Stephen King novel. Employees lose the will and desire to read the Handbook after about the first 2 pages anyway, so keep it brief. Cover the main points, and wrap it up. Shoot for 30 pages or less.
2. Distribute the Handbook/Manual/Policies. I know it seems obvious, but some employers guard their Handbooks/Manuals/Policies more closely than the formula for Coca Cola, and don’t actually give them to their employees. Sometimes they only distribute them to “supervisors.” Employees aren’t mind readers – if you want to apply a handbook’s policies to employees, you need to actually give it to them. Post it on your Intranet, hand it out at new employee orientation, and/or email it to employees.
3. Update your Handbook Periodically. Having a handbook that was last updated during the Reagan Administration is sometimes worse than not having one at all. Employment laws change. New employment laws are constantly being implemented. Your workforce may have grown to a size where you are now covered by certain laws (such as the FMLA’s 50 employee threshold). Consequently, it is critical that you review and update your handbook periodically. Try to do so at least every two years. If you can review and update it annually, you are ahead of 90% of all other employers on the road to compliance.
Mitchell W. Quick, Attorney/Partner
Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
100 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202