Are HR Manuals Outmoded in the Digital Age?

By Staff Report

Nov. 29, 2011

Dear Useless Exercise:

A human resources manual/employee handbook may seem to be a trite item to distribute, especially if most employees glance at it only to toss it in the trash. However, the purpose of an employee handbook is to offer a set of guidelines and “house rules” for the employees to follow—however common-sense the policies and procedures may seem.

Compare your HR manual to the set of instructions that come with a piece of equipment. You have the gist of how to use it and can, by deductive reasoning, make fair assumptions as what not to do to break it. In fact, when people open the box, many throw out the instructions thinking “I know how this works, I don’t need it.” However, by throwing out the instructions you inevitably lose the details of how the equipment works and, worse, how to fix it in case it breaks.

An employee handbook is essentially the instruction guide for employees to reference should they run into questions related to company policies and procedures such as: vacation policies, Family and Medical Leave Act guidelines and employee benefits. The handbook also lays out company ground rules so employees are aware of what actions may result in a write-up or, worse, termination.

Further, a handbook solidifies company policies and procedures to protect the employer and employees should a dispute occur. As such, employees should sign an acknowledgement form agreeing to the terms of the handbook, and copies should be retained by both parties.

How often should a manual be updated?

Review your policies and procedures annually to make sure they reflect current state, federal and/or local regulations. If you make changes in real time to existing policies and procedures, be sure to communicate the changes to your employees. You also may request that employees sign an acknowledgment form to indicate they received, reviewed and understand the new changes in the handbook.

SOURCE: Tina T. Chen, Employco USA Inc., Chicago

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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