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MANAGING STAFF

What’s in your employee handbook?

Emerging issues are emerging in employee handbooks.

Paid sick leave tops the list of emerging issues most commonly addressed in employee handbooks, with 79.4% of respondents addressing this new legal trend in their handbooks, according to an XpertHR survey. Data privacy is the second most common issue addressed (67.2%) and social media is a close third (64.2%).

The survey also finds that wearable technology, such as so-called smart watches, isn’t yet making its way into handbooks in any significant way, with only 4.1% of respondents indicating they have incorporated this budding technology into their handbooks. Medical marijuana, now legal in nearly half of the states, yet still against federal law, is a challenging issue for workplaces—but only 6.4% of respondents have explicitly addressed it in their handbooks. Bring your own device (BYOD) policies are addressed by 14.5% of handbooks; Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) protection by 17.2%; and e-cigarettes by 20.6%.

Respondents find that keeping their handbooks current with an evolving workplace and workforce (41%) is the most challenging aspect, and keeping it current with the law is a close second (35.6%). A distant third (11%) is getting employees to comply with handbook policies.

“Employee handbooks continue to be a perennial challenge and opportunity for employers,” says Peggy Carter-Ward, head of content for XpertHR, a provider of online compliance tools and guidance for HR professionals. “The challenges of keeping up with a changing workforce, new laws, and just getting employees to read the handbook are not new, yet addressing the evolving workplace issues of paid sick leave, data privacy, and social media are complex.”

Of the 521 individuals surveyed, 91.9% report having an employee handbook. Those with handbooks are generally diligent about keeping them updated, with 78% reporting updates within the last two years; 14.2% within three to five years; 3% within six to nine years; and 2.1% within 10 or more years.

By far the majority (58.5%) of employee handbooks is prepared in-house by HR with review by a lawyer; 18.8% prepare handbooks in-house without review by a lawyer. Handbooks continue to be distributed primarily via print (64.5%), although intranet is a close second at 55.3% and email at 28.2%.

The maintenance of the handbook falls squarely on HR’s shoulders, with 83.4% of respondents reporting that in-house HR is responsible for updating their handbooks, distantly followed by in-house legal (3.7%), outside law firms (1.4%), and outside consultants (2.5%).

“When properly drafted, handbooks can be an excellent tool to ensure consistency in employee management as well as to make sure that all employees and supervisors are familiar with their rights and obligations,” says Carter-Ward. “However, improperly drafted handbooks can create potential liability for employers and leave them susceptible to employee legal claims based on the content of the handbook.”


Related reading:

Office handbook: danger in saying too much or too little


Electronic cigarettes: why your practice needs a “vaping” policy now


Your office’s social media policy: dangerous if not done right


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