2022 Handbook Topics to Update
1. Remote worker policies
The shift of some or all operations to remote work raises questions about many issues. Including a policy around reimbursement for work-from-home expenses may be wise. Whether to pay for the costs of technology for remote workers or not is an ongoing question, and the decision will be different from company to company.
Also, you may want to have a policy that the company has the right to monitor all email and internet use on company accounts and equipment whether team members are working on-site or remotely.
2. Multistate employees
Employers with a newly remote workforce need to consider whether having employees working from locations in various states raises compliance issues. Take time to add or update any relevant state specific content in your handbook.
3. Dress code and grooming
Detailed policies on employee dress and grooming may have been written to ensure all employees project a professional image at work. Mandating or prohibiting specific clothing based on gender or restricting certain hairstyles or facial hair, may expose your company to risk of discrimination against employees based on gender, race, religion, or ethnicity.
Consider updating your handbook to include more general guidelines that are focused on job-related duties or safety concerns. And if your dress code has relaxed with the shift to remote work, don’t leave employees guessing. Spell out the new expectations.
4. Harassment prevention
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) suggests employers develop standards for how employees are expected to behave in a virtual environment. Review your harassment prevention policy and make sure all employees understand that your company condemns any type of harassing conduct, including “virtual” forms of harassment.
Another area in which employers should be alert for potential policy changes is employee leave. Many states have recently passed or expanded laws requiring employers to provide different types of leave for employees, including for domestic abuse, rescue workers, organ donation, and time off to vote, for example. Some have leave provisions related to the pandemic.
Many states and cities require employers to provide paid medical or sick leave and/or paid family leave — when employees need time off for things like caring for a family member or bonding with a child.
If you have employees in multiple states, you will need to be aware of the laws of the states in which those employees work, and your handbook should reflect this.
6. Off-the-clock work
One issue that has been emerging more and more as people work from home, either all or some of the time, is employees working off the clock. Employees can log in to work from computers or even from mobile devices at any time of day, and if they’re nonexempt, this can pose a problem for employers. Nonexempt employees must be paid for all hours worked, so if you know of or should have known that an employee was working — even outside of regularly scheduled hours — you have to pay the individual for the time.
Your policies should reflect your expectations for employees outside of normal working hours. And if you allow work during these times, outline the procedure for employees to alert you of hours worked.
7. Marijuana and drug testing policies
There are now 36 states with medical marijuana laws, and 18 with recreational marijuana laws on the books. With the possibility that employees can more easily obtain marijuana and may legally (at the state level, anyway) use it, you may be wondering what your policy can prohibit.
No law restricts your right to discipline employees for the use of marijuana on the job or for being impaired while working.
In every state, an employer may prohibit:
- Marijuana on company property,
- Marijuana use during work time,
- Employees from being impaired by marijuana.
That means employers may still have zero-tolerance drug policies. If an employee is found to be under the influence of marijuana while working, you can discipline that employee up to and including termination, regardless of whether the person is a medical marijuana user or whether recreational use is allowed in your state.
It’s almost impossible to have one substance abuse policy that works in every state, so be sure your policy accounts for any state or federal laws that must be followed. The laws may relate to marijuana, drug testing, and the consequences for a positive test or other policy violations.
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