A well-considered, well-crafted employee handbook is one of the most cost-effective ways to manage your risk as an employer.
Unfortunately, many employers fail to take full advantage of this opportunity to help employees understand the company’s philosophy, their job descriptions and conditions of employment, the benefits available to them, or the employment policies and procedures they are expected to follow. This situation puts employers at greater risk.
At Benckendorf & Benckendorf, P.C., our lawyers can help you create an employee handbook that is consistent with both Illinois and federal laws and that will provide you with maximum flexibility in administering policies according to your business needs.
To schedule an appointment, call any one of our central Illinois office locations or contact us online.
Employee Handbooks: The Basics
While any number of mistakes can be made with regard to employee handbooks, most involve small details.
For instance, a poorly worded section on your rights to terminate or discipline an “at-will” employee can easily become a binding contractual promise that only allows you to fire that employee for “just cause” or unintentionally requires you to follow specific disciplinary steps before terminating the person’s employment.
Other problems can arise if you try to create a comprehensive employee handbook that has everything in it and contains too much detail. Language stating that the handbook does not constitute part of an employment contract between the employer and the employee and that the employer has the right to modify the book at any time is essential. In addition, a number of issues should be addressed, such as drug and alcohol policies, full-time versus part-time employment, computer use for private purposes, equal opportunity employment, working hours, holidays and vacations, civic leave (e.g., jury duty), and military leave. Disciplinary policies and use of company equipment, vehicles, credit cards, and cell phones, as well as dress code policies should be covered. In addition, having and following a strong sexual harassment policy is very important to helping prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and avoiding a lawsuit.
Laws affecting businesses and employers change, and your needs as a business owner may change, as well. For these reasons, it is important to regularly review and update your employee handbook.