12 Things You May Need to Update NOW in Your Employee Handbook



Is Your Employee Handbook Up to Date? Employee Handbook Updates

Have you updated your employee handbook recently? If not, it could be out of date in regards to changes to local, state and federal laws, as well as other areas such as operations and company policies.

An outdated employee handbook can put your business at financial risk if you’re ever hit with a lawsuit from an employee. It can also put your business and your staff at risk literally if safety policies or procedures are incomplete or outdated.

Employee Handbook Updates

In addition to the basics, such as overtime, minimum wage, paid time off and benefits, here are 12 areas of your employee handbook to review and, if necessary, update.

1. Criminal record: An increasing number of states and cities are passing “ban the box” laws. These laws restrict businesses from asking job candidates if they have a criminal record until an actual job offer has been made.

2. Salary history: Some cities and states are also passing legislation that prevents employers from asking job candidates about their previous salary history. The rationale is that basing wages on previous wage history perpetuates the gender pay gap.

3. Remote work: If your business has started offering employees the option to work remotely in recent years, be sure your remote work policy is clearly explained and current in your employee handbook.



4. LBGTQIA employees: Whether or not your state has passed laws prohibiting discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification, it’s a good idea to include nondiscrimination policies to that effect in your employee handbook.

5. E-cigarettes: As e-cigarettes become more popular, any no smoking policies or policies restricting where employees can smoke should be expanded to cover vaping.

6. Medical marijuana: Has medicinal use of marijuana been legalized in your state? Last year, the Society For Human Resources reports, several courts ruled that medical marijuana users could sue employers for discrimination after they were fired or not hired based on medicinal marijuana use. This is one area where you should definitely consult an attorney for guidance in creating your policy.

7. Maternity/paternity leave: Estée Lauder was recently sued for discrimination for giving new fathers less parental leave time than new mothers, HR Dive reports. One solution some companies are using is to change their leave policy to distinguish between medical leave (for recovering from childbirth) and parental leave (for bonding with the new infant).

8. FMLA and ADA: If you have employees who have used up their leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, or if your business is too small to be subject to FMLA, be aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may require you to offer them leave anyway as a way of accommodating disabilities such as mental health issues.



9. Weapons: If you live in a state that allows gun owners to keep a licensed firearm in their cars, you’ll need to set a clear policy on bringing firearms into the actual building.

10. Active shooter plan: Businesses of any size can be confronted with an active shooter situation. Develop an emergency plan for how to handle this situation.

11. Disaster plan:  Make sure your plan for what to do in a natural disaster is current, including contact information for employees, how to evacuate the building if necessary and how to keep the business operational.

12. Independent contractor vs. employee: If your business uses independent contractors at all, your employee handbook should be very clear as to how you differentiate independent contractors from employees.



Many of the issues above are still unsettled based on lawsuits and pending court decisions. Others may change under the Trump administration. It’s wise to consult an attorney familiar with employment law in your state when revising your employee handbook.

Photo via Shutterstock 5 Comments ▼


Rieva Lesonsky


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow her on Google+ and visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

5 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    Interesting. I didn’t know that you have to update your employee handbook often. Most will just stick with their original handbook for it takes too much effort.

  2. Regulations constantly change and so does your handbook. You need to update it with the times or it will be so old that it will no longer be applicable to you.

  3. Right. The update is a must. You’ll never know if there is something that you have to change because of the times. There may even be some laws that you have to cover.

  4. Kimberly Medeiros

    I was fired yesterday the day before my shoulder surgery, basing my termination on inappropriate behavior something all of us are guilty of but I’m the only one they pull the handbook out on, it’s over 5 years old not to mention I have been the only woman there for 7 yrs up till 4 months ago, several times I went to my bosses to complain about something I was laughed off and the couple of times I said I was gonna go to HR my job was threatened

  5. I completely agree that companies should update their policies to protect everyone from doing unlawful behavior that has something to do with a person’s sexual or gender identification. Reading this tip reminded me of my friend, who told me over the phone yesterday that one of her teammates has been catcalling her since she became an employee. With this, I thought about finding a lawyer that can help her file a case against him to make sure that he respects her as an equal and not in that sense.

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