Human Resources: Three Reasons to Update Your Employee Handbook
Because of the new laws and emerging trends that affect the workplace, it’s important to continually update employment policies as outlined by your employee handbook, writes William Hubbartt, a human resource and privacy consultant and author of “HIPAA Privacy Sourcebook: A Collection of Practical Samples.” Hubbartt outlines several reasons why the employee handbook should be top of mind in his recent whitepaper, “Ten Reasons to Write (or Revise) Your Employee Handbook Now.”
1. To protect employment-at-will-prerogatives: Employment at will is the commonly held notion that an employee may seek work and quit at any time, and that an employer may hire and fire at any time for any reason. But because courts in many areas have imposed limits to employment at will -- and often contend that an employee handbook or policy manual is an implied contract if it contains promises relating to employment, tenure or benefits-- you must stay apprised of any changes to employment laws wherever you maintain facilities, Hubbartt writes.
You may need different language in handbooks for facilities maintained in different locales, he continues. A warehouse in Tennesee could be governed by different employment laws than a contact center in Nebraska.
2. To govern electronic communication: “E-mail and Internet abuse by employees presents a real liability to the employer when the employer’s system is used to transmit sexual harassment or pornographic messages or images,” Hubbartt notes. The employee handbook should clarify whether personal or business-only communication is permitted on company electronic communication media, as well as whether that communication is subject to surveillance by the employer.
3. To set expectations regarding workplace privacy: Employment practices relating to workplace surveillance, searches and monitoring have become more common as employers attempt to increase security and reduce loss due to theft, Hubbartt writes. These policies often have resulted in backlash by employees who regard such actions as an invasion of privacy, however. “Care must be exercised to reduce employee privacy expecations to minimize the likelihood of a privacy invasion claim,” he says, adding that when establishing policies governing workplace privacy, it’s important to identify a job-related purpose for any search or surveillance of employees.