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Time to Update Employee Handbook

Why Have An Employee Handbook? I have covered in an earlier blog why an employer of any size should have an employee handbook. First, it helps employees know what is expected of them and provides the rules on which disciplinary action can be based. Second, the handbook can provide useful protection and defenses against employee actions. Please refer to this earlier blog for more discussion. Why Should An Employee Handbook Be Updated? Many employers like to time release of employee handbook updates to the first of the year. Now is a good time to be updating, as the laws have changed dramatically this year, as in most prior years, governing employment terms and conditions. However, if big changes in employment law happen during the year, you may need to update or supplement policies again, on an ongoing basis. The handbook should not be carved in stone once and then never revised again. That can hurt an employer! What Specific Polices Need To Be Updated? Right now, social media policies need to be reviewed for compliance with NLRB rulings. Benefits for same-sex couplesneed to be reviewed after the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and many more states are recognizing same-sex marriage. Family Medical Leave Act provisions, health insurance availability and tax treatment of health insurance, and dependency exemptions for same-sex spouses need to be updated. You need to review policies on use of electronic equipment, such as hand-held cell phones, after passage in many cities and states of restrictions on use while driving, social media, email, and internet use on the job, and policies on employees’ use of cell phones to record or take pictures of events at the workplace. If you have employees in states that now allow the use of marijuana, either in general or for medical purposes, you need to review your drug policies. Which Policies Can Wait To Be Updated? Employers’ obligation under the Affordable Care Act are still so uncertain right now, I recommend employers not spell out substantial changes in handbooks yet that relate to this Act. You should, however, go ahead now to define full-time employees as only those who work 30 hours a week or more, to match the definition under the Act that triggers many employer obligations, if you can do this in conjunction with requirements of other work-related benefit programs you offer.

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