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It's a New Year, and time to update your employee handbook?

Employee handbooks are a helpful resource for outlining your company's policies, but if it is outdated or you don't have one, consider incorporating it into your business plan for 2018. A handbook can help set the standard for employee behavior and protect your organization from lawsuits.

A roadmap for good conduct

A handbook provides a clear standard of acceptable workplace behavior. Employees like to know what is expected. Having a handbook to use during the onboarding process enables employees to understand your company's expectations from their first day on the job.

Having rules in place that prevent inappropriate behavior can help discourage misconduct. If misconduct occurs, employees cannot claim ignorance of a policy and you can take disciplinary action.

What should be included?

While a handbook is not a legal requirement, it does need to contain certain information if you choose to incorporate a handbook into your business.

  • An at-will employment policy: Texas is an at-will employment state. Your handbook should note that it is not a contract of employment.
  • A disability and equal opportunity policy: The handbook should outline your equal opportunity policy to prevent discrimination complaints.
  • An anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy: Your handbook should have a clear no tolerance policy for both as well as a clear reporting procedure.
  • An attendance, paid time off and leave of absence policy: The handbook should outline attendance policies, information about paid time off, accruals and leaves.
  • An overtime and wage policy: Your handbook should include information about overtime requirements, wages and deductions.

Other helpful topics include performance and discipline policies and a summary of employee benefits. Your handbook should also include a notation that the current addition supersedes any prior editions, allowing you to update it as laws change. Once you have created your handbook, having employees sign off as they receive a copy promotes compliance while preventing employees from claiming ignorance of policies.

A handbook is a valuable business tool that can help promote your internal culture and employee compliance. While you can draft a handbook yourself, having an attorney help with the process will ensure it complies with state and federal regulations. Consider creating one in 2018.

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