businessBusiness Coachingbusiness growthconsultantHuman Resourcessmall-businessWhat are the Consequences of a Poorly Written Employee Handbook?

January 6, 2022by amybabashoff0
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We all want to have faith in our employees, but the unfortunate reality is that bad things happen. 

Every day that you wake up owning a business you are taking a gamble; there’s no worse feeling than being held accountable for a situation where all of the fingers are pointing at you and you have no protection.

This is why we stress – to our clients, audience, and fellow business owners alike – the importance of keeping a proper, up-to-date employee handbook. 

Did you know that these static documents should be reviewed and updated at least once every 2 years? (A lot has changed within the past year, so if you haven’t checked out our 9 Must-Have Employee Handbook Policies for 2022, we highly suggest you do so here.)

While a clear-cut handbook sets the tone for a positive employee experience, a poorly written document creates room for undesirable consequences. Keep reading to see the common ones listed below…

 

Confused Employees:

Since most handbooks are based on compliance, keeping the policy and compliance language separate is recommended. Many employers assume that the legal language used in their handbooks seeks to reinforce the quality of the information presented. 

The reality that we find is much different: it actually confuses your employees. That leaves HR scrambling to answer their questions. Before presenting such information, ask yourself two questions:

 

Misinterpretation of Information:

Like most business documents, policies, and resources, there is no “one size fits all” approach. 

All businesses are made up of their own practices and unique challenges, therefore your handbook should reflect your same beliefs. If you have initially used a few sample policies in your handbook, make sure that the templates are tailored to fit your organization.

Failure to do so can lead to misinterpretation of information. To keep everyone on the same page, organize quarterly, semiannual, or annual meetings to inform decision-makers with newly enacted laws and align them with new or updated organizational policies.

 

Violation of Rights:

Employees may need access to the internet, emails, and even social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to do their work. However, an increasing number of employers fear that too much access to social media and the internet results in security risks and time waste.

Some employers specifically point out that the internet may be used only for business purposes while prohibiting the use of social media during work hours to deal with these issues.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that policies prohibiting the use of social media and electronic communications may violate employees’ Section 7 rights and could violate the National Labor Relations Act. While you cannot address all aspects or all actions regarding employee behavior, aim to focus on critical policies and key behavioral expectations.

 

Misguided Assumptions

An internal HR audit is essential to identify narrow policies and processes that can lead to assumptions. For example, failure to explain the company’s policy on paid leave may lead to employees making assumptions about the reasons, length of time, and advance notice needed to receive payment for not working. 

Sometimes it’s better to assume the unthinkable and be prepared for workplace disasters, such as conflict. With clear guidelines, employees know how to respond- putting you in a better position to reduce the impact. If you are prepared with policies that address unexpected events, you can reduce stress, liabilities, and losses arising from disruption. 

 

Detached Employees

The employee handbook is not just a book of rules and regulations with repercussions for failing to adhere to the authorities. It also reflects the culture that employers want to share with their employees. 

Management and HR should use the employee handbook to bring people to the conclusion that they feel their interests are being looked after in the best possible manner. The handbook plays a vital role in communicating the organization’s (and management’s) goals, mission, and vision. So, make your handbook inspirational and guide the company values and culture that you want the employees to emulate.

 

Litigation

There are many ways an employee conflict can land you in court. 

Most employee policies in the USA comply with federal law but fail to keep current with state and local laws. Especially if your company has locations in different states, you must ensure to update each policy as per local laws or state-specific addendum for each site. 

This is particularly important concerning wage law, where most lawsuits claim that the employer violates federal, state, or local wage laws. 

While FLSA (Federal Labor Standards Act) sets the federal minimum wage, states can set their minimum wages. The law states that there are two types of workers: exempt workers who are not eligible for overtime pay and nonexempt workers who qualify for overtime pay. States have the ability to set their laws for overtime pay and wages. 

Most wage and hour suits claim that the employer has not paid either minimum or overtime wages. If this information is accurately published in the handbook, such lawsuits can be avoided or dismissed.

 

Final Thoughts
You have a vision that drives your company, and you just hope that your employees continue to see your dream – where they work to be a part of the journey as well as the success.

However, in most cases, its not as simple or straightforward as that. While you will face obstacles in the road, know that a good handbook helps to protect the legal rights and responsibilities of the business, the business owner, and the employee, whereas a poorly written one leaves room for risk.

A well-written employee handbook testifies to the time and effort spent on creating it. This valuable tool can clear up any misinformation and extra legal hassles when properly documented.

If you want to create or edit your employee handbook, we recommend consulting with a professional for guidance.

A professional, like our human resource experts here at MCDA CCG, can walk you through this project to make sure that you and your employees are aligned with the company’s ideology, thus preventing misunderstandings, assumptions, and further consequences listed above.

Reach out by phone, email, or simply comment below and we will be happy to answer any questions!

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