Every business should have a comprehensive policy manual available for all employees. The challenge is keeping it up-to-date.
[This post was previously published in July 2017. It has been updated and revised to provide the most up-to-date information.]
An organization's policy manual, assuming they have one, is often referred to as their "policies and procedures" manual. This can be a bit misleading, however, as a true policy manual or employee handbook should really only document an organization's policies.
Their procedures should be housed in a separate document, or documents.
So, what's the difference between the two?
Policies or Procedures?
While it may seem like simply "splitting hairs", the distinction is not only important, but provides for clarity and improved communication. And good communication is key when it comes to conveying your company's policies.
According to one definition:
"A policy is a guiding principle used to set direction in an organization. A procedure is a series of steps to be followed as a consistent and repetitive approach to accomplish an end result."
Strictly speaking then, your organization's operational and policy guidelines should be housed in a policy manual. Procedures comprise a different body of information that should ideally be documented, as well, but provide direction for each and every process and procedure carried out by your business.
The Problem With Policies
Simply put, a company policy is a statement that defines a business's approach to an issue.
Ideally, a company's policy manual, or employee manual, should be a comprehensive explanation of the company's rules for employee conduct that communicates to employees what is appropriate behavior in the organization's workplace.
In addition, a proper policy manual will also document the company's actions on behalf of it's employees such as vacation and sick time benefits, and so forth.
But the problem is that too many companies either fail to produce any written set of policies, or what they do have is often incomplete and out-of-date. The result is confusion, lack of consistency, and a lack of trust on the part of employees.
And, with the ever increasing number of government rules, regulations and policy mandates, especially in states such as California, it's a good strategy to review and revise your company policy manual.
Why You Should Revise Your Company Policy Manual
For employers, there is another perhaps more compelling reason for updating and revising a definitive company policy manual.
According to Wikipedia:
"Federal and state laws and the growing number of cases of employee related litigation against management strongly suggests that a written statement of company policy is a business necessity for firms of any size."
Examples of litigation against a company stemming from employee actions are the release of a customer's private information and, of course, the actions of one employee against another, with sexual harassment being this type of offensive employee conduct.
And this does include the numbers of discrimination suits brought against employers by the the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
So what does your company policy manual look like today?
A company’s policy manual is its blueprint for internal operations. It is a written guide to how the company interacts with employees and runs its business. Policies cover all aspects of what a business expects from employees, such as attendance, safety rules, legal compliance with employment laws, facilities management, and dress codes.
Policies are guidelines that define company rules and procedure, and the consequences for not following them. And policy manuals should be regularly reviewed and updated when necessary.
One of the most important aspects of any policy manual is that it is up-to-date.
Laws change, new issues arise, and the manual must be updated and kept current. And if your handbook is in multiple languages, each version needs to be updated, as well.
For this reason, a strategic approach to revising your policy manual means taking a fresh look at each and every policy to determine that they are:
- In compliance
Three Step for Reviewing and Revising Your Policy Manual
1. Determine Responsibilities
In many companies, human resources staff are responsible for reviewing policies and updating them. In smaller companies the senior managers may be responsible for updating policies. Because company policies must comply with relevant legislation and regulations it’s a good idea to have them reviewed by an attorney periodically, as well.
2. Review for Accuracy and Recency
Review all policies to ensure they are still relevant and up to date. For example, a company policy regarding manual time sheets collected by supervisors would be no longer relevant if your company has installed an automatic electronic attendance system recently.
You should also review for up-to-date compliance with both federal and state legislation and regulations, review policies for current HR practices and procedures, and current products and services.
3. Revise and Re-Distribute
Policy manuals are typically produced as paper copies of written policies put together in either binders, or printed as book-bound publications. However, many companies post their manuals in digital formats that employees can access on their computers.
A great approach is to keep your original copies intact, and categorize your updated revisions with a numbering system so that your changes are documented and dated. These updates are then made to the digital version for distribution to all involved so they are informed of the policy change.
A signed acknowledgment of receipt of the updated policies can be required, if you feel this is needed.
Keep Your Employees Informed and Your Company Protected
Company policies reinforce and clarify the standards expected of employees and help employers manage staff more effectively by defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace.
And a policy manual, or employee handbook, that is both comprehensive and up-to-date will also provide essential documentation for businesses faced with possible litigation arising from employee disputes.
If you have questions regarding this, or other HR issues and practices, let us help you in managing your HR needs, payroll processes, and staying on top of compliance demands. Get your Free HR On-Demand Tour to help you make an informed decision or call Accuchex Payroll Management Services at 877-422-2824.