Published January 2011
Every business should consider providing or updating their company employee handbooks to reflect current trends that are highly relevant in today’s workplace. The perception that employee handbooks are bland stacks of standard policies leads some employers to become static in routines and forget to employ creative and strategic policies that can provide important benefits to the company. Consider, at least, the following five policy areas recognized as major focus points for 2011:
- Employment Classifications. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has been increasing its compliance enforcement efforts, and employers must understand how to initiate proper assessment in various areas of wage and hour laws (e.g. employee vs. independent contractor, exempt vs. non-exempt, full-time vs. part-time). Properly classifying and controlling the hours of employees can amount to a huge savings in overtime or other payroll expenses.
- Health and Safety. Another area of DOL attention involves safe and productive workplace environments. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires covered employers to maintain a workplace that is free of hazards. Having specific policies in place is a key part of the process.
- Social Media. With the increasing usage of social networking sites and technological equipment (i.e. smart phones), employers should remain mindful of how their employees are using the internet and thus how they may be promoting your business and the image of the company. In addition, social media can cross barriers between confidentiality and privacy rights. So, a sound policy would be able to pinpoint the functionality and appropriate time frames that allow for social media usage during work as well as non-work hours. Without a comprehensive policy governing social media an employee with access to company data and a computer could ruin your business.
- Telecommuting. Telecommuting can be used as an important recruitment and retention tool, and more companies are allowing more workers to work remotely more often. The same rules that apply in your office also apply to an employee working at home, however. You must have policies to insure productivity by telecommuters, control working hours and overtime as well as job safety.
- Benefits. Whether trying to stay on top of various health care reform laws, apply family medical leave updates, or provide vacation and sick leave time-off, it is vital for employers to ensure that their benefits-related policies remain current.
To be sure your Employee Handbook is up to speed, conduct a thorough review, at least, on an annual basis with the guidance from an HR Professional, if needed.