Most organizations provide their staff members with an employee handbook. There are many benefits to doing so; however, not all employee handbooks are created equal.

A handbook is a great way to communicate your organization’s overall plans, practices, and policies. From a legal standpoint, it offers a layer of protection to the employer as it proves that employees were given pertinent information relating to their employment and job performance. It’s also a good way to communicate with employees and remove unnecessary confusion and false assumptions from the workplace.

Today’s employee handbooks should look a bit different from the handbooks of the past. Employers need to review and edit their handbooks at least once a year and with so many changes in employment law, it’s probably time for most employers to take a hard look at their current handbooks. It is likely that many items will need to be edited or even removed.

Here are four tips for creating an employee handbook in 2017:


Changes to equal employment opportunity policy. Your policy probably already states that discrimination against employees based on age, race, or nation of origin is not permitted. Today’s handbook also needs to make clear that discrimination against people who are transsexual, bisexual, asexual, or intersex is not permitted. A simple “Discrimination based on an employee’s gender/sexual orientation is prohibited” statement will suffice.


Edits to substance abuse policies. Many states have now made marijuana legal, either for medical use or recreational use. It is, however, still illegal on a federal level, so your employee policy can simply state that no illegal drugs are allowed. You may also include information on your drug-testing policy. If your organization does random drug testing, for instance, what levels of marijuana would be considered a termination-worthy offense?


Changes to dress code. Your dress code needs to be gender non-specific. Instead of saying ‘Women’s skirts must be knee-length” or ‘Women may not wear dark nail polish,” the handbook should say, “Skirts must be knee-length” and “No dark nail polish.”


Social media use. In today’s world, most employees have some sort of social media, be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or others. They might also be regular users of social news sites like Reddit.


What rules are in place regarding what your employees can post online about your organization and its customers? What policies are in place to monitor employee cyber behavior? These are issues that need to be addressed and clearly laid out for employees in the handbook.



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