If you own your own business and have employees, you probably know that clear rules and consistency are key. Employees appreciate knowing what is expected of them and what they can and cannot do. Employees also appreciate being treated fairly. However, to be treated fairly, there must be a set of rules and they need to be applied consistently.
Forgiving mistakes or relaxing the rules for some and not for others may lead to expensive litigation lawsuits. Almost 75% of all lawsuits today against corporations involve employment disputes. The average cost of an out-of-court settlement for employment related cases is $40,000.00. The average defense cost for these lawsuits is $45,000.00. The median compensatory award for employment practices liability insurance cases is $218,000.00. With these costs being so high, amending your employee handbook and improving it is absolutely worthwhile. Here are 7 ways in which you can improve your employee handbook:
- Include what you expect of your employee. The more clear these expectations are, the better the performance of your employees will be because they will know what they are supposed to do. For example, instead of saying “sales people will sell our product to customers,” you can say “sales people will research prospective leads, gather information, call prospects and then follow up.” This level of detail will also clarify and help you evaluate the performance of your employees. Furthermore, if an employee is not following these detailed steps, it will be much easier for you to fire the employee.
- Add your company’s mission statement. Employees are much more likely to work hard if they believe in your cause. Adding your mission statement will remind your employees of what they are working for and will help keep them motivated.
- Add a procedure for handling complaints. No business is perfect and a lot of employees run into issues that just make their lives and jobs harder. If your employee does not have anyone to talk to about it, the problem may become a much bigger deal than before. These problems can range anywhere from the office being too warm to sexual harassment. That is why you should have a section that encourages the employee to go to a designated person in case of an issue. You should also include a back-up person just in case the issue is involving the first designated person.
- Add a section that discusses the process for promotions. This section should be detailed and followed very closely because giving a promotion to someone and not to another person who is just as qualified may be seen as discrimination. If applicable, this section should contain objective criteria such as years on the job or meeting sales quotas.
- Add a section on training. This section should include not only what training you are providing at the start, but also the training you are going to provide during the employees’ careers. Employees like companies that are always striving to be better and that help the employees with personal development as well. The training section should provide for “as needed” training as well. For example, if one of your graphic designers cannot figure out a particular software, he or she should be able to ask for training, thus reducing lost time that comes as a consequence of your employee trying to figure it out on his own.
- Add a section on safety. Every company should have emergency procedure that tell employees what they need to do in case of emergencies. This section should comply with OSHA and other federal and state laws. You should state where the emergency exits are, where the emergency supplies are located and what to do in certain events, such as hurricanes. Finally, you should train your employees on these emergency procedures and provide drills.
- Add a section for calling in or sick days. Employees get sick, it happens, and there should be a procedure in the handbook that provides when and to where your employees need to call in. You should also specify how many sick days your employees will receive per year. Furthermore, you should also include the procedure for extended illnesses.
There are a lot more parts and improvements to employee handbooks than what is discussed above. However we hope that this post has given you some ideas on how to improve your employee handbook. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
Donata Kalnenaite, Esq.