You probably already have an employee handbook, but when was the last time it was updated?
The employee handbook is the HR playbook when it comes to communicating corporate policy to your employees. It’s the complete outline for your company policies and can cover everything from payroll information to performance improvement plans. It's usually given to new hires during their employee onboarding process. Though employee handbooks can vary based on company and industry, most cover the same set of policies and regulations.
What should be included in an employee handbook?
Terms of employment
Pay and benefits
Vacation and PTO policies
These are the standard inclusions in nearly every employee handbook and not something that needs rehashing. While including these policies should be a no-brainer, there’s a chance that you’re forgetting something in your employee handbook.
What is your employee handbook missing?
The corporate landscape is changing, which means you can’t stick to the status quo. If you haven’t reviewed your employee handbook in the last two years, it might be time to dust the thing off and see what might need updating.
We’ve highlighted nine policies that you probably don’t cover in your employee handbook that you should consider including:
1. Social media policy
The digital age has ushered in a new wave of technology and along with that comes new challenges. Employees are no longer anonymous to the public and many have an online presence.
A good social media policy outlines how an organization expects its employees to conduct themselves online. The depth of what your social media policy covers is entirely up to you, but this inclusion is necessary to protect your company’s online reputation. It also encourages employees to keep their own reputation in mind when posting on platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
Tip: Establish clear guidelines around how you expect employees to conduct themselves, what behavior isn’t acceptable, and what company information employees are allowed to share on social media.
You may offer employees the option to not associate their personal social media with your company, but be aware that there are ways for those connections to be made anyhow. When in doubt, encourage your employees to post with caution and care.
2. Computers and technology policy
As remote work becomes more popular, there comes some grey area when it comes to workplace technology. Many employees are encouraged to work outside regular office hours and bring their company laptops home with them.
Your employee handbook should cover the policy on computer and technology uses for employees. Will you allow employees to use their company laptop for personal use? What is the policy for taking a work laptop out of the country on vacation? And can employees stream Netflix from their laptop while at work?
These may seem like silly questions, but with our lives becoming more entangled with work, it’s important to establish expectations and boundaries.
3. Freelancing policy
Your company likely has a non-compete clause within your employee contracts. A couple years ago, they might’ve been all you needed to avoid any issues. But the nature of work is changing faster than most companies can keep up.
An article from Forbes claims that 57 million Americans are part of the current “gig economy.” This includes anyone who is working multiple jobs, freelance work, and side-hustles. If you are too strict in your non-compete clause, you may find it difficult to attract young talent that enjoys working a side hustle.
Consider revamping your current policy to include freelancing exceptions. Be sure to set expectations that freelance work and related emails won’t be answered during regular business hours. It’s also wise to approach each situation on a case-by-case basis to ensure your employees aren’t doing any work for competitors on the side.
But apart from those two scenarios, most employee freelance work won’t get in the way of your business and your employee handbook needs to address that.
4. LGBTQ+ discrimination policies
Over the last several years, certain states have rolled out special protections for LGBTQ+ employees. While your current employee handbook probably already has an anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy, it’s important to make sure it’s up to date with the latest laws in your state.
This is a particular topic that you should keep a close eye on. The changing laws and legal protections for these employees means HR professionals have a duty to ensure they are also aware of the most recent laws. You owe it to your employees to provide them with the most current information and knowledge of their rights as possible.
5. Paid parental leave
Regardless of what you think of your company’s current paid parental leave policy, there’s probably room to improve. Only 13% of U.S. workers have access to paid parental leave, though many more would prefer access.
Most companies are woefully behind when it comes to offering new parents comprehensive paternity leave. In order to provide your employees with the best benefits, you should revisit your current paternity leave policy. Does it seem outdated? Maybe it offers less time for new parents than is really fair? Whatever the case, this is one employee benefit that tends to get overlooked.
Another thing to consider is how your parental leave policy covers those employees who are looking to adopt. Adoption is much more time-consuming process that will likely require your employee to take time to help their new addition to the family time to adjust. While this is a special case, you should be prepared for any scenario.
As HR professionals, you need to set aside any preconceived ideas about what a traditional family looks like in your mind and be ready for the realities that your employees are living. How will your company handle parental leave for same-sex couples? Does your paternity leave policy allow for same-sex couples to have adequate time with their newborn or have outdated ideas kept your company from keeping up with the times?
Not only will changing your paternity leave policy improve relations with your current employees, but you’ll also likely attract new talent. Millennials are flooding the job market and many are looking for companies that will offer them the flexibility to begin their lives and start families.
Since 2012, the landscape surrounding marijuana usage has been shifting in the United States. As of April 2019, there are 10 states (plus the District of Columbia) that allow for recreational marijuana usage and many more that include exceptions for medical usage.
If your company is one of these states, you need to update your drug usage policy to include information about marijuana usage. And even if you aren’t in one of these states, you should revisit your employee handbook.
Do you have a policy regarding employees who use marijuana in a state where it’s legal? Are those employees exempt from any drug testing that may come back positive? These are the questions you need to ask yourself when reviewing this policy.
7. Telecommuting employee policy
As the workforce becomes more connected by technology, some employers are turning to hiring 100% remote employees to broaden their talent pool. Research from Small Business Trends shows that 3.9 million Americans currently work remotely at least half of the time.
If your company plans on hiring remote workers, you’ll want a section in your handbook covering the expectations and guidelines for these employees. What hours are they expected to work? When will they be required to be reachable? How do they return company equipment upon moving to another job?
These are the types of challenges you’ll face with remote employees and each one will need to be fully addressed in your employee handbook on their first day. Communication is key when dealing with employees you don’t see in the office every day.
8. E-Cigarettes policy
Your company probably has a policy about smoking, but have you updated your smoking policy to include e-cigarettes?
One in 20 adults in the United States use e-cigarettes either alongside or in place of regular cigarettes and their popularity is on the rise. Your company should review its policy to include rules and regulations regarding the usage of e-cigarettes.
Are employees allowed to use their e-cigarettes within a certain area of the office? Are they allowed the bring their device into the office with them? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself when reviewing your employee handbook.
9. Tuition reimbursement
If you’re one of the many companies that offer tuition reimbursement for your employees, you’ll want to include the guidelines in your employee handbook.
The information regarding your tuition reimbursement program should be included under the benefits section. It should outline when employees are eligible for the program, what courses qualify, and how much money is allocated for each employee.
You’ll want this section to include a formal document for your employees to review and sign with their employee handbook. It protects your company from any miscommunication while outlining the exact requirements for employees to follow.
Stay vigilant about the changing employment landscape
As the workplace continues to evolve, your job as an HR professional is to stay up to date on the latest information.
It’s important to remember that your employee handbook is not a legal binding document and does not ensure compliance. However, it can help protect your company from certain liabilities and communicate clearly with all of your employees.
HR Managers, interested in reading more? Check out our complete guide on talent management and browse more articles like this on our human resources hub.
Lauren Pope is a Content Marketing Manager at Oracle and a former content marketer at G2. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, the G2 Learning Hub, and other sites. In her free time, Lauren enjoys watching true crime shows and singing karaoke. (she/her/hers)