I was told last week by someone in human resources that having an employee handbook is archaic and unnecessary in today's world. The statement caused me to pause. I have been advising employers of all sizes to adopt employee handbooks to fit their company.
So I stopped to think--is an employee handbook archaic? Are there certain employers that shouldn't bother with a handbook? Should I tell all employers to destroy their handbooks? After considering the benefits of implementing a handbook, it's still my opinion that employers should provide employee handbooks to their employees.
First, the purpose of an employee handbook is to provide information to employees about the terms, conditions, and benefits of their employment. It provides an understanding between employees and management about the "house rules" and expectations. Everyone has a reference point when a question arises about a leave of absence, working hours, appropriate appearance or anything else contained in the handbook.
Second, it can satisfy an employer's legal obligation to provide notification regarding certain laws. For example, under COBRA employers are required to provide a general notice of COBRA rights and obligations to covered employees within 90 days of the active coverage effective date. The FMLA also requires employers to provide written guidance about employee rights and obligations.
Third, in practically every discrimination lawsuit any client has been involved in, the employer policies relating to harassment and discrimination are important. The existence of written policies demonstrates that the employer is cognizant of the potential for harassment and discrimination and is taking steps to prevent it. Written policies provide a defense when a lawsuit arises.
For all those reasons, I will still be encouraging my clients to adopt written handbooks and providing those to employees.