Now Is The Time To Update Your Handbook

March 06, 2020
Inside HR
Read time: 4 mins

A good employee handbook is essential for smooth business operations and successful employee relations. However, a handbook can only help your company if it’s carefully planned, written, and continually updated. With several recent legislative changes, your employee handbook may be out-of-date and, therefore, out of compliance. Below are several crucial areas to update or add to your employee handbook.

Wage Theft

Last year, Minnesota and its largest city, Minneapolis, enacted wage theft legislation. Wage theft is a broad term used when an employer does not pay all the wages to which an employee is entitled. The new laws create obligations and recordkeeping requirements for employers related to wage notices and earning statements.  Part of the recordkeeping requirements center around creating a handbook acknowledgement or list of policies given to all employees (not just new employees) with a brief description of the policies. Therefore, Minnesota employers should revise their handbook acknowledgements accordingly.

Legalization of Marijuana Use

Many states, including Illinois, have legalized the use of recreational marijuana, yet marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. If your state has legalized marijuana, it’s time to revise your policies on drug use in the workplace. Your policies should make clear your company's position on drug testing, the use of marijuana in the workplace as well any prohibition of employees working under the influence.

Remote Work Policies

More and more employers are allowing employees to work remotely, but this change should not be made without very clear policies in place. If your company recently started allowing employees to work remote, now is the time to update your employee handbook. Your handbook should contain information regarding (among others) eligibility, availability, communication standards, productivity measurements, tech support, security, and time and attendance recording procedures. 

Illinois Discrimination and Harassment Policies

Effective January 1, 2020, Illinois employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals perceived as belonging to a protected category under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA). Illinois also has new laws that put even more responsibility on employers to train their employees and to address harassment claims thoroughly and consistently. 

In addition to the new annual harassment training requirement, your handbook should explicitly state the types of behaviors considered inappropriate within your organization and should outline clear guidelines on how to address alleged inappropriate behavior. Illinois employers should also update their polices to make it clear that harassment against contractors and other categories of non-employees is now prohibited in the workplace. Finally, the IHRA makes it clear that harassment in the “working environment” is not limited to the actual physical location where the employee is assigned to perform duties. Therefore, Illinois employers should revise their discrimination and harassment policies accordingly.

Social Media Policies

Social media in the workplace continues to evolve as new platforms emerge. All generations of employees are using social media to communicate, not just millennials. Most employers are using social media to promote and market their products, but it can also limit productivity if abused. In addition, having a social media policy is essential in making sure your employees know what they should and should not do on social channels. Now is the time to clarify your policy regarding personal and company use of social media and be specific about the consequences for violations.

Independent Contractors

If your organization utilizes any independent contractors, the employee handbook should contain very clear policies as to how independent contractors are differentiated from employees.  

Family, Medical and Parental Leaves

Pregnancy leave, leave to care for a sick or injured family member, or leave due to an employee’s own illness are among the most common questions we hear on our HR Hotline. State and federal leave laws contain overlapping – and in some cases, conflicting – employee rights and employer obligations regarding leave. Make sure you and your managers have a clear understanding of all the moving parts. 

Paid Sick Leave

As the paid sick leave movement continues to sweep across the U.S., these regulations have driven employers to evaluate their existing time-off benefit policies and determine whether a one size-fits-all policy is practical for their business. If you are in a jurisdiction that requires paid sick leave, ensure you have a good understanding of the regulations and how those rules stack up against what you already offer your employees. 

At MRA, we have resources to help you dig into the topics listed here, including sample policies on our website and state-by-state law charts for multistate employers in our CCH Compliance Library (found under Resources on our website). But if you find that you need an extra set of hands to tackle these updates, we are here to help!