How Important Is an Updated Employee Handbook?

Your Updated Employee Handbook Questions Answered – Why, How, and How Often

The company handbook plays a vital role in business practices. A handbook also serves as a guide for office protocol and needs to be routinely updated. Operating without an updated employee handbook leaves both the business and its employees vulnerable. Stay tuned for answers to your top handbook-related questions.

Why Every Business Needs an Updated Handbook

Handbooks can act as a contract between businesses and employees. Should either party fail to fulfill their requirements, there could be serious repercussions. Handbook guidelines keep employees safe while helping employers provide an environment that matches company ethics and legal requirements.

Because of their substance, employee handbooks shouldn’t be one-time endeavors. Instead, having an updated employee handbook should be part of a company’s annual protocol. There are several reasons as to why a company handbook should be regularly updated.

Cultural Changes
A handbook written 25 years ago is sure to have a few questionable clauses while also lacking important sections (e.g., dress codes and non-discriminatory policies).

Tech Changes
An updated employee handbook should have a section on technological policies and expectations. Employees should find information about Wi-Fi rules (are they allowed to log in on their smartphones?), BYOD policies, and use of social media at work.

Law Changes
Changes to federal and local laws can quickly outdate a company handbook. Employers should check for changes in PTO or sick-time requirements, along with overtime regulations, when updating their content. With recent federal legislation, drug policies may also need updates.

Company Changes
Some legal and policy requirements only apply to companies of a certain size. Once a company grows past the minimum number of employees, the handbook must be updated.

State and local policies have certainly had the most significant impact in 2019. Employers should continue to expect more state family-leave requirements, state and local sick-leave laws, and accommodations laws. Additionally, policies arising out of the #MeToo movement and marijuana legalization will require handbook updates. Keeping up with the compliance at the federal, state, and local levels can seem daunting, especially to multi-state employers. Remember, partnering with an external HR resource can help ease the process.


FAQ – Updating a Handbook

Before taking on a handbook update, browse through some common questions from business owners.

How often should a handbook be updated?
An employee handbook should be updated annually. In most cases, there will be no drastic changes, but always review and compare current federal and local laws with existing policies.

Should employees be informed of a handbook update?
Yes. Whenever altering a policy or section in a company handbook, employees need to be informed. Also, provide a new hard copy of the handbook, or a document pointing out the change and effective date.

Hosting handbooks online is a great way to simplify the notification process. Provide employees with a link via email or text message. For legal purposes, employees should sign confirmation documents upon reviewing updated policies.

How do you update a company handbook?
Many companies “borrow” handbook templates, fill in their company details and send it off to their employees. This can make the updating process quite daunting. Luckily, there are options when it comes to updating an employee handbook. The work can take place in-house, but outsourcing the work to an external HR team can ensure the update is timely and accurate. No matter the route, we always recommend having a lawyer review an updated handbook for errors that could result in litigation.

Both employees and their companies can benefit from an updated employee handbook.

As a result, minimize risk, avoid litigation, and eliminate confusion on policies and expectations by committing to annual updates.


Finally, learn how Tandem HR can help update your employee handbook, call 630.928.0510.

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