In March of 2020, working from home became the new normal for many people. Organizations may not have been prepared for this new normal, but ready or not, the transition needed to be made. Some employers went with the Band-Aid approach of doing what they needed to do to get by temporarily, while others fully embraced the challenge and sought the potential long-term advantages that it offered to employer and employees alike. Most employers did not expect this new normal to last as long as it has, or for it to bring so many unforeseen challenges.
In our recent post addressing the need for and benefits of an employee handbook, we mentioned the importance of having employees sign off on having received and read an organization's employee handbook. This is a vital step in creating and distributing a handbook because it encourages employees to read the document, ask questions about its contents, and signal that they understand the information provided. We also noted that sign-off should occur when each new edition of the handbook is given out.
Are all employers required to have an employee handbook? If you answered "no" to this question, you are technically correct. There are no federal or state laws that specifically require companies to create and maintain employee handbooks. HOWEVER, we strongly suggest doing so since, regardless of your company's size, having an employee handbook is a good business practice. There are many laws requiring employers to notify employees of workplace rights (e.g. EEO, sexual harassment, ADA, FMLA), and this document can help with that. In fact, a well-crafted employee handbook helps protect both employer and employees. Following are five specific reasons why having a handbook might be a good idea for your organization.
On November 6, 2020, Oregon OSHA issued final temporary rules to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in workplaces by requiring employers to implement a comprehensive set of risk-reducing measures. The rules will take effect November 16th, with some tasks phased in, and are expected to remain in effect until May 4, 2021. These new rules affect all employers and include additional requirements for high-risk jobs.
The following is a summary taken from the final temporary rules requirements for all workplaces:
As The Fixx sang anxiously in 1982, "One thing leads to another."
Here in the anxious environment of 2020, that statement may be more true than ever. The arrival of COVID-19 led the federal government to pass economic relief legislation, such as the FFCRA. Responding to that, employers updated their policies to comply, but in many cases they also re-evaluated existing leave policies to adapt to the required changes. All of this filtered down to HR departments, which needed to codify these policies in employee handbooks so that employees could understand what all of this realistically means for them. Then more legislation, then more policies, then more handbook changes.
In her blog post last week introducing this month's HR topic and webinar, Four Critical Handbook Policies for 2020, Christy talked about the employee handbook builder available to subscribers of People Savvy HCM Essentials. This is a great resource to help HR professionals and part-time HR administrators alike create, maintain, and keep compliant employee handbooks that are custom tailored to their organizations. Behind each employee handbook created in the builder is a team of professional HR Advisors, who work on your behalf to generate a handbook that aligns with your company's specific policies while remaining compliant from a regulatory perspective. Here's how easy it can be to generate a new employee handbook or update a current one.
Can anyone else believe how fast 2020 is passing by? We are almost half way through summer already! Do any of my HR friends out there have reviewing and revising (or creating?) the employee handbook on their growing list of things to do? With all of this year's other unanticipated priorities taking precedence, I bet it is pretty close to the bottom right now. If you want to move it up briefly and check it off the list quicker than you anticipated, following are some great resources that might just help you do that.
Over the past few months, we have all been hyper-focused on navigating our organizations safely through the current, unprecedented times. We've been furloughing employees and bringing them back; making sure we provide a safe work environment or making remote working the new normal; administering all the new government compliance programs and reporting paid sick leave and extended FMLA. While these responsibilities have been taking most of our time and are, understandably, very important, we still have to make sure we are checking items off from our normal HR to-do list, like making sure the employee handbook is up-to-date, maintaining performance management programs, completing OSHA reporting, conducting safety training, benefits renewals, and open enrollments...and the list goes on and on.
Coordinating Human Resources wasn't in your job description when you were interviewed and hired at this little company of 47 employees. But you're a fast study and have a friendly personality, and so after six months at work you were asked to show a new hire around. Afterwards you thought, "There should probably be an orientation and initial paperwork process for when new people are hired," and so you took the initiative and created one. The benefits enrollment process interested you, and so you became the main contact with the broker. One day, somebody asked if the minimum wage poster in the break room was current. It wasn't, so you retrieved the latest version from the Department of Labor website and started checking and replacing the other notices from time to time. HR tasks didn't take up too much of your time, and it was kind of fun keeping on top of things.
Then a pandemic hit.
“Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” -Malcolm Forbes
On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is workplace diversity to you? Now on that same scale of 1 to 10, how diverse do you feel your organization is?
What does workplace diversity mean?