Although New York State does not require small business owners to maintain employee handbooks, this convenient tool offers numerous benefits. In addition to spelling out employment terms, it conveys your company’s obligations to its employees.
However, your employee handbook will not serve these purposes unless you commit to updating it periodically.
What should your handbook include?
A handbook outlines your business’s mission and policies regarding hiring and termination, performance and evaluation, salary and benefits, conduct and ethics, operations and security and anything else you want to include.
A handbook should also address state and federal labor laws. For example, it should include workplace discrimination and harassment policies and employee rights regarding jury duty, family and military service leave and collective bargaining. Safety guidelines and conflict resolution procedures are also standard inclusions.
When should you update your handbook?
Updating your handbook every six or 12 months ensures that your staff functions under guidelines that keep pace with your business’s evolving needs. Periodic reviews and updates also help you remain compliant with state and federal labor laws to avoid costly violations.
For example, when planning to reduce or eliminate your employees’ hours, you should update your manual to include current conditions and procedures to qualify for state or federal unemployment insurance and healthcare benefits. Also, when opening new branches of your business in multiple states, you must update your handbook with state-specific policy sections. Finally, it is advisable to update your handbook’s security protocols when you increase your business’s reliance on technology.
An employee handbook is an excellent tool for conveying workplace policies and your employees’ legal rights. However, frequent updates are essential to ensure your business runs smoothly and you avoid severe penalties for unknowingly violating labor laws.