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Employee handbooks have been an area of controversy for quite some time among HR Professionals. Should your company have a handbook that possibly places you in situations loaded with liabilities because no policy manual can be without implied contracts; or should you have a written set of policies and procedures to diminish your overall risk?

In doing research, it seems clear it is best to have an employee handbook, especially for companies that employ 20 or more individuals for each working day and 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year.

This is the threshold where protective legislation such as Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”) or the Federal Age Discrimination in employment act (“ADEA”) applies. (Be aware some state laws vary which may prompt a company to have a handbook that deviates from this criteria). Some literature states it is imperative to have a handbook at 15 employees due to federal Civil Rights, ADA and Pregnancy Leave Acts.

Some benefits to developing and maintaining employee handbooks:

  • In the absence of written policies, past and present activities become policy. Since many of these practices are or can be discriminatory (because of a lack of consistency), the company is in greater danger of law suits and claims with government agencies than if they had carefully spelled out the company’s expectations of the employee.
  • Provides management with sufficient discretionary powers to act in a number of ways under similar circumstances.
  • Makes the employee feel at home with a welcome to his or her new employment.
    For the handbook to carry meaning and validity, the employee should be required to sign off that he/she has read the policy manual, understands its contents and agrees to abide by the company policies. That document should be placed in the employee’s file.

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