YYour employee handbook will never make the New York Times best seller list, but it could be one of your business’s most important documents.
California employers are not required to have an employee handbook, but there are many good reasons for having one. Clearly articulating benefits, policies, and standards in a handbook can improve employee morale, loyalty, and productivity. Employees are less likely to feel that management decisions are arbitrary or discriminatory if they can read and understand the employer’s policies. Likewise, supervisors are more likely to administer policies in a consistent manner if there is one manual they can reference whenever needed.
An effective handbook should, at a minimum, do the following:
- Orient employees to the employer’s business and values.
- Define the legal relationship between the employer and the employee.
- Inform employees about benefits like vacation and sick time.
- Summarize procedures for taking medical leave and requesting accommodation.
- Include policies against sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination.
- State the employer’s rules and standards.
EOn the other hand, a poorly drafted and outdated handbook can do more harm than good. A handbook that does not take care to articulate the at-will nature of employment in California could lead employees to believe they have a contractual relationship with the employer, potentially giving rise to legal claims if the relationship ends. Provisions that confuse statutory schemes and promise benefits employees would not otherwise have could unwittingly create extra obligations for the employer. Inconsistent enforcement of the policies in a handbook could lead to feelings of unfairness and claims of discrimination. Handbooks that are not revised on a regular basis run the risk of conflicting with current law or with changes in the employer’s policies.
In most situations, it is recommended that employers have employee handbooks because the benefits typically outweigh the risks. Although the process of articulating policies and summarizing procedures in writing for an employee handbook can be daunting for employers who are busy with the day-to-day operations of their business, doing so is usually worth the time and effort. A well-crafted handbook can aid in the improvement of employee relations and proper handling of workplace issues.
Employee handbooks should be tailored to each specific workplace, keeping in mind the employer’s own policies and approach, as well as the size of the workforce. California laws regulating employment often differ based on the number of employees, and other states do not have the same protections for employees. For these reasons, employers should avoid reliance on sample manuals or out-of-state guides. Employers should have an experienced employment attorney review any manual before it is distributed to employees.
For more information on this or related topics, contact Sara Boyns or Chris Panetta at (831) 373-1241.
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