12 Improvements to Make for Your Employee Handbook In 2020

Your company has key policies that keep it running smoothly, and you need a simple way to communicate them without confusion. Your employee handbook brings all the details together in one place! Whether it’s a digital file or physical document, this is a great resource anyone with questions can refer to. 

But you can’t just “set it and forget it!” 

With a new year approaching, it’s likely you need to make some employee handbook updates to address changes in business structure, and ensure you’re in compliance with laws and regulations. If you don’t already have a handbook, 2020 is the perfect time to create one!

Why Your Company Should Have an Employee Handbook

You don’t want to spend half the day handling employees’ inquiries regarding policies and workplace rules. Providing a handbook saves you time by clearly outlining and defining:

  • Baseline rules for everyone in the company
  • Expectations for employees
  • Time off, sick leave and disability coverage
  • Fair treatment, unfair treatment and discrimination

Having all of the details available in your handbook is helpful for both you and your employees.

It can stand as evidence in your favor should an employee ever file a lawsuit against you, claiming you didn’t act in accordance with procedures. On a day-to-day basis, the handbook makes it easy to keep track of and streamline the types of employee policies the company maintains so that no one ever feels burdened by the weight of unnecessary regulations.

Employee Handbook Requirements

Although most of what you put in the company employee handbook is optional, there are several points you’re required to include by law. These sections cover policies for family medical leave in accordance with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), workers compensation policies, and statements regarding equal opportunity and non-discrimination in employment. 

Check the U.S. Department of Labor “elaws” database for additional information. You can also look into specific laws for your state to ensure you don’t leave out anything mandatory.

What should make up the rest of the employee handbook contents? Start with the basics:

  • Code of conduct, including harassment, violence and conflict resolution
  • Pay rates and frequency
  • Rest and meal breaks
  • Benefits, including paid time off
  • Hiring, promotions and termination
  • Attendance, including telecommuting and remote work
  • Performance expectations and evaluation policies
  • Open door policies and communication guidelines
  • Alcohol and drug testing and use policies
  • Building safety and security
  • Dress code

Employees should also be made aware of the “at-will” nature of their employment, meaning either they or you have the right to terminate the working relationship at any time, if applicable. Include an agreement for all employees to sign acknowledging they’ve read through the handbook and understand your policies, and keep a copy for your records.

If you want to make the handbook a little more fun, include information on the company history, culture and values. This injects some personality into what can otherwise be a rather dry document. It also helps give new employees a chance to get a feel for the atmosphere of the workplace right from the start. 

Communicating your vision and values helps employees understand where policies stem from, and why it’s important to maintain a particular standard of conduct.   

How to Update an Employee Handbook for 2020

It might seem strange that a document outlining basic company guidelines would need to be updated. But it’s also good practice to review and make changes to your handbook every year. With 2020 coming up fast, you should be getting ready to go through this process and get a revised handbook ready for distribution. 

Need an employee handbook checklist to help you get started? Consider these 12 edits to update your policies for the new year:

  • Adjust existing guidelines to maintain compliance with any new federal or state employment laws.
  • Minimize the risk of security breaches and cyberattacks with a data privacy policy limiting how data is accessed, transferred and stored.
  • Inform employees of proper social media conduct, including language used when talking about the company and limits on accessing personal accounts at work.
  • Update information on reasonable accommodations to reflect changes in employee diversity.
  • Re-work smoking and drug use policies in light of growing e-cigarette use and new state-level laws regarding the legality of medicinal and recreational marijuana.
  • Clarify your bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy to include wearable tech and other internet of things (IoT) devices.
  • Spell out rules regarding the use of company-issued devices.
  • Explain how and why employee monitoring tools are used and what you do with the information.
  • Improve language detailing employee privacy.
  • Add privacy information regarding biometric data collected for security purposes, such as fingerprints or facial scans.
  • Review and revise the dress code to allow for more comfort on the job without sacrificing professionalism or compromising safety.
  • Clean up grammar and spelling, and make sure the tone of the handbook reflects the overall attitude and culture of the company. 

Because every business has its own unique challenges, you should also meet with current employees, supervisors and managers to discuss specific areas in which your employee handbook could be clearer. Find out what employees were confused about when they first joined the company and what changes can be made to ensure new hires are comfortable when they walk in the door on their first day.

Get Funding to Update Your Employee Handbook Now

Is cost holding you back from making these much-needed updates? Creating and producing a handbook isn’t cheap, especially if you run a small company and are already struggling to maintain consistent cash flow.

Some business owners try to save money by purchasing a handbook template for a couple hundred dollars, but there’s no guarantee the template will fit your needs. If it doesn’t, you’ll waste a lot of valuable work time re-working the content. 

Doing an employee handbook right is easier with the help of a consulting company, a labor lawyer, or both. This is where extra expenses can really add up; consulting starts at around $725, and getting a lawyer’s advice can set you back $1,500 or more.

However, you have to keep in mind the cost of failing to comply with employment laws and the impact of any legal actions employees may take against you if you don’t have written regulations in place to dictate appropriate treatment and boundaries. 

Applying for a business line of credit from National Business Capital & Services can give you quick access to the funding needed to update your handbook and distribute the changes in time for the new year. You can’t spend ages waiting for a bank loan when you want to get the edits done in a couple of months.

With National’s line of credit, you can receive funding in one to three days and draw on your credit limit any time you need extra cash. When you have a new edition of your handbook all set to go, you and your employees can head into 2020 with confidence.

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About the Author, Phil Rinaldi
Phil joined the National Advisor as a guest author to contribute finance, marketing, and tech news. With a background in Business and Marketing, he provides insights into current trends, tech, and marketing strategies.