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Best Practices: Employee Handbook Updates for 2021

Best Practices: Employee Handbook Updates for 2021

As Q4 and the end of the year approaches, there’s no better time than now for HR to review and revise the company’s employee handbook. What tips and best practices can HR use, and what updates should be included for 2021?


Refresher: How Do You Write an Employee Handbook?

The employee handbook is one of the most important documents for your organization. It’s a road map for employees that clearly outlines the behaviors and work patterns that are acceptable to the company.

Great employee handbooks include the following details:

  • Key employment law policies, including federal, state, and local regulations
  • An overview of the company and general employment policies such as job classifications, employment eligibility, employee records, job postings, termination procedures, resignation procedures, union information if applicable, and leave policies
  • Anti-discrimination policies—employers must comply with laws prohibiting discrimination, and harassment, as well as ADA compliance
  • Sexual harassment prevention statement, and the company’s commitment to zero tolerance
  • Work schedule, including policies on hours of operation, schedules, attendance rules, punctuality, and reporting absences
  • Conduct standards, including how employees are expected to behave in the workplace, dress code, cybersecurity, and device policies
  • Safety and security, including emergency exit locations, how to report an accident, and OSHA reporting requirements
  • Tech security, including policies on company email, blog posting, computer software, and social media usage


Employee Handbooks vs. Culture Guides: What's the Difference?  

A Culture Guide goes beyond the typical employee handbook by explaining the history of an organization, its mission, and vision. It discusses how the organization tackles problems and communication norms.

Culture Guides also include norms for how colleagues treat each other, compensation philosophies, and information on employment law. In addition, they should discuss housekeeping items that help employees navigate daily life, such as how to connect to the printer.

Some companies may have employee handbooks that already operate like Culture Guides. To learn more about how to update your handbook, watch the following HR Party of One episode: 


What Employee Handbook Updates Should HR Consider for 2021?

A lot happened in 2020. From the global COVID-19 pandemic to new Supreme Court decisions, HR was expected to stay on top of a wide assortment of new compliance rules and regulations. 

Consider implementing the following updates to your employee handbook for 2021: 

  1. LGBTQ+ Protections: The U.S. Supreme Court decided in June 2020 that employers cannot fire workers for being LGBTQ+. HR teams should amend your employee handbook to reflect these protections alongside existing anti-discrimination language. 
  2. Remote Work Policies: Thanks to COVID-19, employers in 2020 experienced one of the biggest remote work experiments in American history. Update your employee handbook to reflect your team’s new, long-term remote work expectations and compliance policies.
  3. New Employee Leave Requirements: The CARES Act and FFCRA were passed in March 2020 to protect employees and employers during the coronavirus outbreak. While the former deals mostly with economic relief and updates to HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs, the FFCRA expanded emergency family and medical leave as well as emergency paid sick leave. Use this resource to update your employee handbook accordingly.
  4. Safety and Security Plans: There’s a very real chance that COVID-19 could last well into 2021. If you haven’t already developed a reopening plan or a safety plan, do so. Then, incorporate these policies into your employee handbook.


Update Your Employee Handbook to Remain Current, Compliant

Your employee handbook should be a living, breathing document. Times change—and they change fast, as we learned in 2020. HR needs to regularly revisit, audit, and update employee handbooks to remain current and compliant. 

Likewise, these updates keep your organization and role safe from potentially harmful litigation if the information included in your employee handbook is incorrect or outdated. Leadership will thank you for your efforts.

2021 Company Culture Trends Blog CTA

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