Every start-up experiences growing pains. The process of hiring more employees and increasing your size carries with it headaches that most entrepreneurs would rather avoid.
One of these is developing an employee handbook. That’s very unfortunate, because the purpose of this document is to prevent problems in the future. A small investment in time and effort today can help prevent misunderstandings, bad feelings, and even lawsuits in the future.
The most important thing to remember about an employee handbook is that it is not a contract, but a guide. It is important to state very clearly what is expected of each employee in terms of safety, workplace demeanor, and other procedures which have to be followed exactly.
Much of this is standard, and can be copied from other companies of similar size in the same industry. It is critical that all company policies be outlined as well as expectations under the law. You may well want to keep it brief and manageable, but it does have to be complete. It should also be reviewed and updated at least every two to three years.
Updating an existing employee handbook
There have been some important changes in employment law for 2018, particularly here in California. If you have an existing employee handbook, or are planning to primarily copy one from another start-up, you do have to be aware of these updates. They include:
- Policies prohibiting discrimination against LGBT employees
- Policies regarding recreational marijuana, alcohol, and related
- Recent court decisions on family and medical leave act (FMLA) situations
- Changes to the definition of “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Legal requirements for sexual harassment reporting, documentation, and related policies
- New regulations relating to contractors, especially regarding the number of hours they can work
The main reason to have an employee handbook is to be sure that everyone is aware of the applicable employment laws and company policies in advance. This should be a part of promoting a happy and harmonious workplace, not a strict regime of “dos and don’ts.”
If you need assistance in preparing an employee handbook, you should contact an experienced employment law attorney for guidance. You may have not felt the need to have one in place, but as your start-up grows it becomes more important all the time. Don’t think of it as a headache, but as a good way of preventing problems in the future.