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Annual Employee Handbook Review: Why It's Crucial for Your Business

If you ever thought having an employee handbook is unnecessary, think again.


Symmetry HR - Is your employee handbook up to date?

A well-formulated employee handbook is one of the most essential documents for your business.  It functions as a multifaceted resource, not only introducing the company's culture but also outlining expectations and policies. Additionally, it acts as a protective measure, creating a safeguard against potential employment-related legal issues. This handbook is intended to serve as a cornerstone reference for any organization.


With the only constant being change, the contents of an employee handbook can quickly become out dated, misleading or ambiguous. These factors can quickly open your company up to a high level of risk. For these reasons, employee handbooks should be reviewed carefully and updated regularly. While there’s no standardized format for them, best practices include assessing any important changes to company policies and procedures; incorporating recent changes to state, federal or international employment laws; and making updates that reflect changes to employee benefits.


How should you go about updating your employee handbook? We’ve outlined five general steps in the process.


1. If you don’t have one, create one.

While you’re not legally required to create an employee handbook, having written policies and procedures is an HR best practice. Not only does this inform your employees about your company’s expectations, work rules and culture, it also affords a level of protection against employee litigation.


 2. Review your employee handbook annually, and Identify necessary changes for existing sections and information to be added.

Review your employee handbook each year for any necessary updates. These could be based on changes to company policies, procedures, philosophy, organizational structure, etc. Consider both recent changes and forecasted changes that will take effect once the updated version is distributed to employees.


3. Create and Stick to a Handbook Update Plan

Once the necessary changes are determined, craft a plan of execution. Depending on the updates, this could be a lengthy endeavor—making an organized execution plan essential.


4. Bring in outside expertise.

At Symmetry HR, we are experienced in identifying where a handbook may be lacking. Even if you have internal HR personnel, an outside perspective can ensure your new policies are compliant and will serve you well. We know a thorough employee handbook could be beneficial if an employee sues your company over matters your handbook covers. Conversely, an ambiguously written, misleading and outdated handbook could be the proof that employee needs to win their case.


In addition to an HR consultant, have the company handbook reviewed by legal counsel. Your employee handbook is a legal document, making this a highly recommended step. Although it’s not a contract, courts will treat the employee handbook as a piece of evidence in employment-related lawsuits—even if you have a disclaimer intending to avoid implied contract issues. So ensure the document avoids language that could be used against your company.


5. Send your updated handbook to your employees.

It’s launch time! You finally get to send your employee handbook to employees. Require employees to either digitally or physically sign something to attest they have received and acknowledge its contents.


If you’re not sure when you last reviewed your employee handbook—or you don’t have one at all—reach out to us at Symmetry HR. Whether you’re building a handbook from scratch or just making a few tweaks, we’re here to help.

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