Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Employee Handbook: Your Best Defense

Although it is standard practice for large companies to provide staff with an employee handbook, this is
not always the case in many small and mid-sized companies. Some smaller companies do not have an HR presence and thus may not have the expertise or time to write policies. Other companies simply prefer to take a more flexible approach, and deal with issues as they arise, rather than setting up policies that apply to all employees. Whatever the reason, failing to have an employee handbook can cause problems for employees, managers, and even the company.
Of course the purpose of establishing policies is to provide guidance for how specific situations will be handled within the organization. Without policies, managers have to make a decision every time the issue arises and if the matter comes up only infrequently, they may have a hard time remembering how they have handled it in the past. This can prove frustrating for both managers, who have to make the decisions, and employees, who simply never know what to expect.
But the primary reason why all companies, large and small, need to have an employee handbook is that having – and following – established policies will be your best line of defense in the event of a lawsuit or EEOC investigation brought by an employee or former employee. In discrimination cases, the issue is generally whether or not a certain individual or group was treated differently because of their membership in a protected class (gender, race, religion, etc.). When managers are left to decide policy questions on an individual basis, it is inevitable that some inconsistencies may occur and it will be very difficult to prove that these discrepancies were not due to discriminatory reasons. On the other hand, when you can present an employee handbook that clearly states the company’s policy, as long as you have not deviated from these policies, you will be able to show that you did not discriminate, but rather followed your established procedures.
Despite the benefits of having an employee handbook, it can be a daunting undertaking. Even if you do have HR professionals on staff, they may not have the time or expertise to complete such a project, and outsourcing this work is often the most cost-effective option. For information on how we can assist you with this important task, please contact us.

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