Macon partner Alyssa Peters provided insight for small business owners on the importance an employee handbook.
Small business owners in particular may struggle with deciding when to formalize employment expectations, given that there is no magic number of employees or time-frame where an employee handbook is required. While it may seem like a small number of employees don’t require an employee handbook, the use of a handbook can be help effectively communicate the company’s goals, policies, benefits and rules, along with a sense of organization and purpose.
A few topics that should be considered when compiling an employee handbook are what the expected worked hours are, what hour restrictions apply, what constitutes a “work week” for wage and hour purposes, the process of handling an employee complaint, how employees should ask for time off, what leave laws are applicable, and company safety rules and requirements. All of these topics should be covered and drafted specifically for the company in mind, and should not come from a template or generic handbook. Additionally, employers should follow the handbook and ensure compliance to set standardized expectations. Most states do not consider an employee handbook to be an employment contract, but some do. Regardless of whether this is the case, employers should never communicate false expectations, guidance or policies to employees. This type of behavior can result in lawsuits, and employers should be sure to update their handbooks as needed to ensure relevancy.
“Finally, make sure your polices within the handbook are legal,” Peters advises. “You do not want to have an illegal practice explaining in writing that you may have not known was illegal. So, while retaining an employment lawyer to formulate or review your handbook is not absolutely necessary, it may be a good idea to utilize this time period to find an employment attorney you like and feel comfortable with.”
The full article is available here.