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As an employer, you face significant responsibilities when it comes to those who work for you; and doing your best to not only adapt, but support your team, through constantly changing work environments doesn’t make it that much easier.

The truth is, you’re not alone in carrying this heavy weight – we’re all still trying to figure things out.

What we know for sure is that a clearly defined employee handbook is effective in communicating company expectations and requirements, and a brand new year indicates that it’s time to revisit your current policies and make necessary updates. While ever-changing economic variables, laws and regulations may deter from this task due to their complex nature, we feel that simplifying an intimidating assignment makes it much more approachable.

With this being said, we have gathered our top MCDA CCG HR experts to compile this list of must have policies for 2022.

#1: COVID-19

By now, many companies have written policies to address masks requirements, vaccination, social distancing, and other safety measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. As mentioned above, it’s important to keep in mind that federal, state, and local governments are constantly adopting laws, regulations, and executive orders that may impact policies in these areas. Here are some examples:

A few states require employers to have a written policy/program on preventing the spread of COVID-19 and specify the elements the program must include.

Several states and local jurisdictions require masks for unvaccinated employees. Some require masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.
Federal, state, and/or local rules require certain employees to be vaccinated.
Several states have rules that prohibit employers from enforcing vaccine mandates unless they provide certain exemptions.
In some cases, federal, state, and local rules may even conflict. Employers should consult legal counsel to discuss the impact of recent federal, state, and local rules on their COVID-19 policies and practices.

#2: At-will employment

This statement repeats that – excluding certain exceptions such as an implied contract or public policy- either you or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, as long as the reason is a lawful one.
It’s a good idea to visibly display this statement in the beginning of your employee handbook (unless it isn’t recognized in your state.). Reinforce at-will status in your handbook acknowledgment form as well.

#3: Nondiscrimination

Federal, state, and local laws forbid employers from discriminating against applicants and employees based on certain protected characteristics, including age, race, sex, and religion, and others.

Both the list of protected characteristics and the list of covered individuals continue to grow as states and local jurisdictions enact new laws and government agencies and courts take new positions on existing laws. Whether or not your jurisdictions requires a policy addressing discrimination, it’s strongly recommended to have a policy that:

Includes all characteristics protected under federal, state, and/or local laws.
Addresses who is covered by the policy
Prohibits retaliation against employees for filing a complaint or participating in an investigation.
Stresses that all employment decisions are based upon one’s qualifications and capabilities to perform the essential functions of a particular job, without regard to protected characteristics.
Governs all aspects of employment, including but not limited to hiring, selection, training, benefits, promotions, compensation, discipline, and termination.
Urges employees to report all instances of discrimination and offers multiple avenues for them to do so.
States that appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including immediate termination, will be taken against any employee who violates the policy.

#4. Employment classifications

It’s a best practice to clearly define employment classifications, such as full-time, part-time, exempt or non-exempt since an employee’s classification can dictate eligibility for benefits and overtime pay.

#5: Anti-harassment

A growing number of jurisdictions are requiring employers to maintain a written policy on preventing harassment in the workplace.

Keep in mind that your state or local law may require specific information to be included in the policy, such as how employees may file complaints with the state or local agency.

Even if your jurisdiction doesn’t require a written policy, it’s a best practice to have one. In several additional jurisdictions, state and local agencies and/or case law recommends employers adopt a written anti-harassment policy.

#6: Leave and time off benefits

These policies address company rules and procedures related to holidays, vacation, or leave required by law (such as sick leave, voting leave, family leave, and domestic violence leave).

Several state and local jurisdictions recently enacted laws requiring leave for COVID-related reasons and therefore may require a written policy. In general, these policies should cover:

  • Eligibility
  • The reasons qualifying for leave
  • Amount of leave granted,
  • How the leave will accrue and carryover (if applicable)
  • Paid or unpaid,
  • Amount of notice before leave
  • Continuation of benefits during leave
  • Procedures for requesting leave
  • Recordkeeping and employer notice requirements
  • Reinstatement at the end of the leave.

Check your state and local law to ensure all leave requirements are included in your employee handbook.

#7: Timekeeping and pay

A timekeeping policy informs employees of the method for recording time worked and the importance of accurately recording their time. With many employees working remotely and/or on flexible schedules, employers should ensure the policy meets their needs.

Among other things, the policy should direct non-exempt employees to record all of the time they work and expressly prohibit off-the-clock work (however, if they do perform off-the-clock work, you must pay them for this time).

Require non-exempt employees to confirm their work hours at the end of each pay period and inform them that they should report any errors in their time record immediately. A policy on paydays should let employees know the frequency of paydays, the methods available for receiving pay, and any special procedures for when a payday falls on a holiday or when an employee is absent from work.

#8: Employee conduct, attendance, and punctuality

Attendance policies make it clear that employees must be ready to work at their scheduled start time each day and provide procedures for informing the company of an unscheduled absence or late arrival. It’s also a best practice to have policies on standards of conduct, drug and alcohol abuse, disciplinary action, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and workplace violence.

#9: Reasonable accommodations

Under certain laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants and employees with a disability, or with sincerely held religious beliefs and practices, unless doing so would cause undue hardship.

Certain states have similar requirements that apply to smaller employers, and some states and local jurisdictions have laws that require accommodations in additional circumstances. Again even if it isn’t required, it’s strongly encouraged to have a written policy on reasonable accommodations.

Final Thoughts

We hope this list provides clarity in necessary employee handbook updates. As you move forward to draft and review your employee handbook, ensure that your policies comply with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and that they are consistent with best practices.

It would be a lengthy list if we were to include everything necessary for each particular company, but if you have any specific questions or need some extra guidance, our team is here to help. Give us a call, send us an email, or message us on our social media pages (@mcdaccginc) to receive a customized response – as opposed to a generic comment.

As we further head into this year and you continue to scale your business, this is the best time to make sure that your employee handbook is spot on and able to sustain your growth. A good employee handbook is updated, relevant, and a powerful resource for new hires and tenured employees alike.

Reach out to one of our HR experts today!

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