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Five Issues to Address When Updating Your Employee Handbook for 2021

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employee handbook

The New Year is a Great Time to Review and Update Your Employee Handbook.

Happy New Year! 2021 is the year of updates and changes. We proudly say goodbye to 2020 and all the interesting twist and turns it carried. With the onset of the new year, we should also take a look at our policies and procedures. It is time to update them for the new year.

It is hard to say goodbye to any year if our policies and procedures are outdated. Does the employee handbook address COVID safety protocols? Is there an emergency plan outlined in the handbook? How does the handbook address the remote workplace?

These are just a few issues that must get addressed within the company to start the new year off on the proper foot.

1. Do Not Ignore COVID

Coronavirus caught many business owners off guard. Many did not have any protocols in place for a worldwide pandemic. Truthfully, an event like this had not occurred in over 100 years.

However, now that the world is dealing with the pandemic, companies must address the issues it causes. The employee handbook offers the perfect opportunity to address these issues within the workplace to avoid future concerns and questions.

Many employers will automatically add new protocols to the standard employee handbook. However, others may choose to include a COVID supplement to the employee handbook. While COVID may be something that will eventually go away, it is a great idea to include an emergency health crisis section in the handbook.

Use this section to address proper safety protocols, Family and Medical Leave questions and sick time. This section of the handbook should be specific to both COVID and any potential national health crisis. You can deal with changing laws and sick leave protocols as a stand-alone issue elsewhere in the handbook.

2. Update Protocols in accordance with Legal Changes

Minimum wage laws and sick leave laws are changing throughout the country. However, your employee handbook may not have kept up with the changes.

When updating your employee handbook, make sure you address any laws that may have changed since your last update. For instance, New York State now requires mandatory paid sick leave. New Jersey just increased its minimum wage.

These and other legal changes must make it into your handbook to ensure your employees are well-informed of their rights.

3. Include an Emergency Plan

The world shut down. Many businesses were left with no clue how to proceed. They did not have a plan in effect for any wide-spread emergency. They may not have anything in place for even a small, local emergency.

Make sure you include an emergency plan for your business. Answer the following questions thoroughly:

  • What is the protocol in the event of a temporary government shut down?
  • How do we reboot in the event of a cyber-attack or company hack?
  • What can employees do to protect themselves in the event of a robbery or hostage situation?
  • What is the protocol for layoffs in the event of a mass layoff related to a crisis?

These and other emergency response issues must get addressed in your employee handbook. Putting a plan in writing helps employees feel more confident that they will be safe. Business will continue if an emergency occurs at work.

4. Lay Out Plans for Telecommuting

As a result of the pandemic, many employees are now telecommuting to work. Prior to the pandemic, most companies had no plans in place for a remote workplace. However, many businesses needed to close their physical doors. As a result, they needed to allow for remote workplaces to allow employees to continue to work with a minimal loss to the business.

Many companies did not have any protocols for a remote workplace. They learned as they went. Most businesses successfully transitioned, eventually.

Your employee handbook should officially address the protocols for working from home. Make sure to include timekeeping protocols, communication expectations, and paid commutes into the business’s physical location for a meeting or event.

5. Address Federal Family and Medical Leave and State Family Medical Leave Concerns

Many employees, especially in the midst of the pandemic, wonder if the Family and Medical Leave Act or state Family Medical Leave laws apply to them. They don’t understand how these laws work. They need to know whether they qualify, get paid for the time off, and how much time they can take.

Include a section in your employee handbook addressing these issues. Make sure to inform employees about all the FMLA options and how to use them.

Final Thoughts

You should update your employee handbook every year. Laws change regularly. The needs of businesses, employees, and employers change annually.

The start of the new year is a great time to review your employee handbook and update it as needed. Once complete, make sure every current and future employee receives a copy of the updated handbook. Make sure they sign off that they received and understand the information within it.

The Human Resources experts at WorkplaceHCM can help you review your employee handbook and update it as needed. Call us today at 856.334.9711 to learn more about how our team can help you and your business.

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